Friday, May 14, 2004
'While all of these may have some measure of truth and bear some culpability, they all also share one other thing in common and we should take careful note of this: as everyone seems to imply that had they or most other Americans been in the same situation, these things wouldn't have happened. Perhaps in this, Rush Limbaugh in his casual reference to torture as stress relief is closest to the disturbing truth that we are all trying to avoid.'
I believe that a.) if ordered, anyone would have performed these acts and b.) anyone can become a terrorist. It's a bit of high-minded moral superiority to say that "oh, I would _never_ do that", either in reference to the torture at Abu Ghraib or the beheading of Nicholas Berg. It remains to be seen whether or not the use of torture was a "local" decision or one made throughout the government, but it is nonetheless true that most of us, when in Rome, will act like Romans. We are all capable of mutilating a dead body as happened in Fallujah. Past human history is full of fully-sanctioned, government-sponsored torture spectacles. Witch burning, lynching, the Inquisition, public execution, etc. People just haven't changed all that much in the last few thousand years.
This is the reason why I think the process is the most important issue, and why those at the top hold the most responsibility. Law-abiding citizens will follow the laws, whatever they may be. If the folks in charge say "kill everyone who's a Tutsi or looks like one", most folks will (and did). It's part of the social contract to assume that those in charge have a reason for their actions and therefore deserve our obedience. The ability to question those actions and safeguards against misuse of power through legislation are the only principles that keep our government from descending into the abyss of abuse that we've seen in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. The fact that this happened is proof that the process has failed and those who are in charge of it should resign or be voted out of office.
This principle also applies in the "war on terrorism". By creating an environment in the Middle East where extremists are respected and trusted more than local governments or the United States, the Bush administration is advancing the cause of terrorism. The more moral authority the real terrorists have, the more people will begin to believe that their views are valid and that their methods are as well.
The last thing anyone wants is for the extremists on all sides to be taken seriously and to have their views blessed by association with ideals such as "patriotism". When it's patriotic to cut off the head of another person using a large hunting knife, you know something has gone terribly wrong. The same can be said when it's patriotic to torture prisoners, rape women and children, and beat people to death in the name of "freedom".
Rumsfeld's outright disdain for the Geneva Conventions promotes this way of thinking and should be countered with the strongest democratic means possible. Add to this the multitude of poor decisions made by the Pentagon over the last three years, and the conclusion is pretty clear -- Rumsfeld should resign or Bush should show real leadership and fire him.
Andrew 9:02 AM : |
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