Thursday, December 02, 2004

These Things Have Turned You Into Something You're Not. Don't Listen To Them

As usual, Molly Ivins nails it.

I abhor violence -- but, more than that, I hate suffering. And deliberately inflicting suffering is one of the surest signs of evil I can think of.

It has been our government's policy for almost three years.


Why don't politicians and clergy and newscasters and pundits and teachers and principals and moms and dads get crazy about our government routinely torturing people?

Quite apart from the treaty violations it encourages, there are two huge moral values reasons why Gonzalez's memo justifying torture is incredibly wrong. The first is that, by torturing captives, it makes it much, much easier for our opponents and enemies to torture our troops -- and civilians -- when they are held captive.

The second is that it is Just Plain Wrong. Torture has no place in human society.

But our government does it. As a matter of routine.

This must stop.

I heard an absolutely great panel at the Social Science History Association meeting two weekends ago on historical perspectives of U.S. empire. One of the talks, by Julia Adams and George Steinmetz, discussed historical changes in "rules of war," with an "amity line" being drawn between European countries and the rest of the world in the 18th and 19th century (even in the first Geneva Convention late in the 19th c), with the notion of universality only coming after World War II with the realization of the horrors of warfare against civilians. They asked whether Gonzalez's and others's proposals are creating new amity lines based on vague notions of civilization. Actually, they said they think the U.S. is crafting a hybrid of different forms of imperial legalisms (my awful term, not theirs), marked out by questions of legal sovereignty (whose rules apply where), rules of warfare (mentioned above), and the relationship between the state and racism.

Sometimes irony is the sanest course in the middle of insanity. Perhaps this is why I'm an historian.
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