Sunday, September 25, 2005

The country's moral fiber

An indispensible post on Balkinization on the ever-burgeoning torture story simmering around the edges of the GWOT: it's systematic, and it's being both covered up and hand-waved away. I don't think Juan Cole is one bit hyperbolic when he says that, "The brutalization of the US military and of its prisoners is a brutalization of the entire American public. It is an undermining of the foundational values of the Republic. We cannot remain Americans and continue to behave this way routinely."

The fundamental reason why Cole is right in this judgment is that the whole situation -- the ongoing torture, the "defining down of 'humane,'" the scapegoating of enlisted troops, the systematic coverups -- has been vastly documented in the media. The situation is well understood by any member of the public that has bothered to want to know. It's therefore very difficult to conclude anything other than that the American public, as a whole, has essentially decided that such behavior is, if not desirable, then at least acceptable. Andrew Sullivan sneered a year ago when Susan Sontag declared that the Abu Ghraib pictures were a direct reflection of the United States today. But the longer the torturing goes on, and the more that it becomes politically tolerated, the more Sontag's argument becomes inescapable.

Maybe my moral compass is wound up the wrong way, but if we have to choose between an America where more chief executives get blowjobs from slatternly interns, or an America where more chief executives sanction torture, it's pretty clear to me which kind of moral decay represents a greater threat to the America I cherish.

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