Thursday, June 17, 2004

A nation of bad apples

From "The Logic of Torture" by Mark Danner:

"It has long since become clear that President Bush and his highest officials, as they confronted the world on September 11, 2001, and the days after, made a series of decisions about methods of warfare and interrogation . . . . The effect of those decisions - among them, the decision to imprison indefinitely those seized in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the war on terror, the decision to designate those prisoners as 'unlawful combatants' and to withhold from them the protections of the Geneva Convention, and finally the decision to employ 'high pressure methods' to extract 'actionable intelligence' from them - was officially to transform the United States from a nation that did not torture to one that did. And the decisions were not, at least in their broad outlines, kept secret. They were known to officials of the other branches of the government, and to the public."

The 'rake's progress' that led to torture and murder started with:

  • American acceptance of the vilification of Muslims and Arabs and Arab-Americans (a vilification which continues),

  • the unlawful imprisonment of thousands of Arab-Americans simply for falling in the wrong racial category,

  • the shameful concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, a place where no civilized law is allowed to govern, and

  • the ongoing outrage of the concept of 'unlawful combatants'.

It is fair to say that both in general concept and in details, Bush and his Administration are morally and legally responsible for every act of torture and murder committed by Americans in Iraq and elsewhere, and that the torture and murder is based entirely on Bush Administration policy which filtered down through the chain of command completely unaltered. But you can't blame this solely on Bush. Almost every American is complicit in this, and continues to be complicit in it as almost all of these crimes against humanity continue. The United States is a nation of bad apples. Danner concludes:

"Over the next weeks and months, Americans will decide how to confront what their fellow citizens did at Abu Ghraib, and what they go on doing at Bagram and Guantanamo and other secret prisons. By their actions they will decide whether they will begin to close the growing difference between what Americans say they are and what they actually do. Iraqis and others around the world will be watching to see whether all the torture will be stopped and whether those truly responsible for it, military and civilian, will be punished. This is, after all, as our President never tires of saying, a war of ideas. Now, as the photographs of Abu Ghraib make clear, it has also become a struggle over what, if anything, really does represent America."

Needless to say, the end result of all this will be to conclusively prove to the world and to Americans that the United States is, and will be from now on, a nation that tortures.