I guess the cultural conservatives were right all along: the moral rot in this country runs unspeakably deep. It’s 2006, and the Senate of the United States is having a debate about torture: not about outlawing it, but about permitting it. And by some weird alchemy the proponents of dishonoring the flag by making it the banner of war crimes and crimes against humanity have claimed for themselves the mantle of patriotism. (Yes, Rush Limbaugh has actually said that if we suffer another terrorist attack, it will be John McCain’s fault.)
In the past week I’ve spoken to two decent and intelligent people who get much of their information about current events from conservative sources. Both of them, quite sincerely, repeated to me the winger talking point about how all the CIA has been doing to captives is playing loud music and keeping them in overly air-conditioned cells. It makes the silence of the Germans about the death camps much easier to understand: if something is too horrible to believe, it’s easier not to believe it. And of course those who don’t believe that we’re torturing people tend to be completely convinced that the people we’re not torturing, or sending to places such as Syria not to be tortured, deserve it, in the sense that they’re in fact involved in terrorism: which also turns out to be false.
If you can stand to read it, Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch has a chilling essay in Monday’s Washington Post making the simple point that measures that leave no cuts, bruises, or broken bones — sleep deprivation, for example — can be just as devastating as more picturesque methods.
For those of my readers still in doubt about how, or whether, to vote this November, just recall that the Bush Administration will certainly claim even the limited electoral success of holding on to the Republican Congressional majority as vindication of its criminal conduct and a license to engage in more of it. Whatever reasons you have for disliking the Democratic leadership, Mr. Bush has given you a simple choice: vote for candidates who can defeat his Congressional accomplices and enablers, or be complicit in torture.
Tell me, my libertarian friends: were the tax cuts really worth it?
Footnote Based on my small sample, pointing out that we learned about the cold cell from the KGB and about waterboarding from the North Vietnamese turns out to be a potent eye-opener among the class of people who get too much of their news from Fox News and National Review Online.
Second footnote Am I the only one to find it strange that no prominent politically conservative religious leader, Christian or Jewish, has drawn from the Biblical statement that human beings are made in the image of God what should be the obvious conclusion: that torturing them is a defacement of that image, and therefore blasphemous as well as unjust? Someone needs to tell me again that religiosity helps enforce morality; for some reason I keep forgetting.