Thursday, April 23, 2009

Follow Up To Torture

EnviroMom responded to yesterday's post in a way that has caused me to think and extend my remarks:

The thing that disturbs me the most about all of this is that
we tend to feel, as a society and a species, as if we've evolved. But
intimidating prisoners to get them to confess to things for political gain, well
that beautiful concept dates back quite a bit longer than the Bush
administration. Think the Red Scare, the Salem Witch Trials, the Spanish
Inquisition...torturing confessions out of prisoners is not exactly a new idea,
and it doesn't make me feel any more hopeful about mankind's ability to learn
from its past mistakes.

That left me thinking about her point, which I'm going to both refute and reinforce (quite the trick). I think of all this as a case of the reptile brain gaining ascendancy.

When I'm confronted by something, someone or some situation I dislike, there's a part of me that wants to say, "Hulk Smash!" and get with the smacking down. I don't do it because it would be wrong (the fact that cops show up helps).

What we had in 2002 in particular was a freak out, where the government's reptile brain (Dick Cheney) ran wild. As I said, understandable. What is unusual is in this era when the consensus is that torture is wrong, someone(s) in the White House and the Pentagon, and for all I know, Langley, decided that, "What the hell. As long as we have the thumbscrews out, let's help W get his war on and smack those latte sipping liberal elites around a bit that they're not really serious about defending the country."

The Inquisition, the Witch Trials (the ones in central Europe around that time, by the way, were FAR bloodier than their little American cousins) and so forth were conducted using what were AT THAT TIME, standard "criminal" techniques. Henry the VIII had the punishment for poisoners set at "boiled alive by being slowly lowered feet first". Torture was, in those days, the modern equivalent of putting a prisoner in solitary confinement.

Today, torture is no longer the cultural punitive norm (and that's a good thing, BTW). THAT'S what makes what Bush/Cheney did in service of their political agenda particularly vile. It's what makes Republicans today arguing that not using it reflects unseriousness about protecting ourselves reprehensible. They're trying to refight a long ago resolved discussion about what constitutes inhumane treatment.

That's why this is so dangerous. THAT'S why the current batch of Republican politicians and pundits who won't come out publicly and continually to state, "Torture is still always wrong," in the style of the 70s era Saturday Night Live Weekend Update that would always start, "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead," are contemptible. Until John McCain and Mitch McConnell and John Boehner and Rush Limbaugh and Micheal Barone and Charles Krauthammer and Fred Barnes come out continually and say THAT, something they don't do...something in fact that all of them have directly or indirectly contradicted at some point in the last eight years, I really don't think the country is safe from them.

We are AT RISK, because some people saw an opportunity to refight the real "Culture War." The one between the Dark Ages and the Enlightenment. The forces of superstition and fear still want their drawing and quartering, and if the forces of rationality and enlightenment do not fight them, continually and with neither cessation nor mercy, superstition will win.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Words Fail Me

Well obviously not, but I see this and I have trouble not breaking into a stream of profanity.

If you don't click links, it seems that one of the uses Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld found for "enhanced interrogation techniques" in 2002 and 2003 was in...wait for it...torturing prisoners to find an Al Qaeda-Iraq connection.

You know what? It's one thing to lose your moral compass from a fear...a not unjustified fear...that Al Qaeda might have had more cells out planning something. It would be WRONG, but at least understandable. NOT forgettable, not even forgivable, but at least I could understand it...the way I can understand, but not forgive, Hamas rocket attacks.

That isn't what happened here. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld (plus the usual supporting crew) tortured people to cover their political asses and to have a talking point to beat up Democrats with.

These people and their enablers (aka the Republican Party) are beneath pond scum. You and I and everyone we know lived in a dictatorship for 8 years. I think the reason Dear Leader Rush Limbaugh is freaking out is he's afraid that someone might be after payback.

He should be glad it's Obama in charge and not me.