Saturday, November 26, 2005

Torture, Terrorism, Abu Ghraib, Black Sites

Our Own Worst Enemy

Yes. We are, sometimes, our own worst enemy.

Take the Bush treatment of prisoners from the Afghan and Iraqi wars.

It is not a great leap from unconcern about the treatment of accused terrorists to unconcern about mistreatment of other prisoners or political enemies.

Treating prisoners inhumanely is incredibly stupid. It inspires revenge. It embitters a generation or two or three. It repels potential allies. It is also un-American and un-Christian and unwise. It plays right into the hands of the terrorists. No act committed by the terrorists themselves has helped the terrorists' cause so much as the Bush Administration's amateurish, clumsy and wrongheaded policies regarding prisoners, which, intentionally or not, led to the Abu Ghraib disgrace. (Well, OK, the Iraq war itself has helped Al Qaeda recover from the defeat in Afghanistan and divided the anti-terrorist world. But no part of the Iraq war has hurt us more than the prisoner abuse.)

Hacking of heads, roadside bombs, suicide missions: these are terrorist acts. They are grisly, beastly, unimaginably cruel. Yep, that's terrorism. These barbarous acts are the evil history of every war in all ages. In my book the Abu Ghraib atrocities and “black sites” (and My Lai, Andersonville, Wounded Knee, etc) are worse for America, not because they are more bloody or more evil in themselves, of course they are not; but because they initiate Americans as junior members of the society of the brutes of Baghdad and their predecessors of Germany, Japan, the Spanish Inquisition, etc, etc., etc.

The entire Bush response to the terrorists has been wrongheaded. I say that not because I believe we should be pacifists. Heavens, no. We should respond with devastating and righteous fury against proven terrorists. But we should respond as Americans who believe the words of our founding documents, who believe that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Whenever we disregard basic human rights, I believe we disregard and diminish our heritage and our moral standing in the world. In short we defeat ourselves. We fail our forefathers.

We become our own worst enemies.

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