Monday, November 29, 2010

No, we're not better than that

Today's letter from Philip Gates referring to W's enthusiasm for torture and stating that we should never do it has drawn some predictably bloodthirsty responses in the comments. "Sheesh Deluxe" responds, "Yes our enemies torture, but we are better than they are, and we do not." I think the tone of the comments shows that this is an ideal, not a fact.

A former President not just admits to it, but brags about prosecuting war crimes, and his partisans, all of whom I'm sure believe that they are morally superior beings, defend both the man and the practice with every infantile argument they can muster. Starla Ryer (aka Ryder) asks, "Shall we just sit idle and allow the current atrocities to continue or shall we retaliate and fight fire with their sort of fire?," apparently blind to the inevitability of this sort of behavior not only extending the atrocities, but escalating them.

There is of course no real intellectual debate about this. Military, intelligence and lawnforcement professionals agree categorically that torture does not produce useful intelligence, it impedes investigations and prosecutions, and it aggravates conflicts, creating more enemies than it eliminates. It's both morally and tactically indefensible. We know it's not just wrong, it's stupid. Yet a large body of us, including a recent President and Vice-President, continue to encourage the use of torture, evidently (from the comments) because it satisfies their lust for revenge.

Every religion and philosopher warns against this sort of passion. It is utterly destructive, and leads inevitably to terrible results. To the extent that we give in to it, regardless of the power of our cities, we are uncivilized.

This sort of thinking is a growing cancer in America, and we have to resist it everywhere. The tinpot Teapublican "patriots" who wrap themselves in flags even as they trample American values in the dirt would enthusiastically turn this country into a fascist, imperialist dictatorship on a scale that even Mussolini could not have imagined. Wherever reasonable, moral people fail to respond and maintain control, they win a little ground.

No, we're not better than this, and that's why we have to work harder to control our animal passions and defend our better values. Maybe one day we will be better, and this debate will be an antique curiosity. For now, it's an active threat to all Americans, and the world.


Justin Rains said...

Don't know if you've been keeping up with the comments, but the best argument about this made so far has been by steve mcqueen (gotta be a fake...right?)
His take is that we (America) can't condemn countries for human rights violations and then turn around and torture for our own information. It's right on.
I'm some where in the middle of the issue myself, seeing the possible advantages for possible information while also seeing it as cruel and inhumane all at the same time.
If there were a way to know that any information coming out was legit, then I'd possibly be more for it, but since there's no way that that is indeed the case, it's very hard to justify in any circumstance.

Anonymous said...

Well written and excellent stand on the aspect of inhumanity to our fellow man.

You hit it square. It is indeed simply a lust for revenge from impotent politicians and ignorant leaders.