Thursday, January 19, 2006

Torture: the new black

New evidence demonstrated in 2005 that torture and mistreatment have been a deliberate part of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism strategy, undermining the global defense of human rights, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2006.

The evidence showed that abusive interrogation cannot be reduced to the misdeeds of a few low-ranking soldiers, but was a conscious policy choice by senior U.S. government officials.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 (Human Rights Watch, 18-1-2006)

Your arrogant scribe, November:

Thus the new calculus: the insurgents become suicide bombers; we level cities the insurgents have already abandoned. The insurgents behead; we waterboard and crucify. The insurgents plant roadside bombs; we incinerate civilians with white phosphorus. For every indiscriminate, random horror they perpetrate, we offer our own in response.

This hypothesis is horrifying in its implications, and it is only a hypothesis. But it is a hypothesis that solves a lot of mysteries about our leaders. It explains why they are undaunted by the consensus that torture will not yield useful information – they don’t expect to get any. It explains why they are so insistent on holding tens of thousands of prisoners whether or not there is a reasonable basis for their incarceration – they are not making any attempt to separate combatants from the bystanders. It explains the horror of white phosphorus unleashed on civilians, and aerial bombardment of our supposedly democratic client – tactical military concerns are secondary at best. The randomness of the violence, abuse and destruction is not an unavoidable byproduct of an otherwise sane policy; the randomness is itself the very object of the policy.

And of course, our descent into such unspeakable tactics explains another, shameful mystery: why the evil we fight has become so difficult to distinguish from the evil we have become.


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