Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Nation Awash in Violence Admits to Torture: "We Have Lost Forever the Right to Moral Leadership"

Abu Ghraib

• We are approaching the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, an event to which the U.S. has responded, at an official level, by doing . . . absolutely nothing at all.

Since Sandy Hook, there has been a fatal school shooting every five weeks.

• Yesterday, the curtain was pulled back — just a little bit — and we who pay taxes in the U.S. learned of the unthinkable atrocities done in our name with our tax dollars: "rectal feedings," forcing prisoners to stand on broken limbs, leaving unclothed prisoners on unheated concrete floors so that they die of hypothermia, threatening to cut the throat of a detainee's mother.

• In the Senate report on the torture done in our name, we see a "portrait of depravity that is hard to comprehend and even harder to stomach." Done in our name. Done in your name. Accomplished in my name.

• A portrait of depravity that is akin to something in the Marquis de Sade or Hieronymus Bosch . . . .

• Some of us celebrate what the report tells us has been done in your name and my name.

• We live, you and I (if you are a fellow American) with a justice system more fixated on punishing someone who steals a pack of cigars than someone who systematically engages in torture.

• Jesus was tortured by a ruthless regime determined to stamp out his witness and exterminate him and his influence by crucifying him.

• And yet a majority of Christians in the most churched, most officially "religious" section of the U.S. — its "bible belt" — think that torture can legitimately be used to obtain intelligence from prisoners.

A majority of members of the tea party and the Republican party — the bastions of the "religious" right in the U.S. — disagree with the statement that torture can never be justified.

• Early this morning, the state of Missouri executed a prisoner with an IQ of 73.

• Yesterday, the state of Georgia executed a man with an IQ of 70.

We are, it seems, a nation awash with blood. Guns are everywhere. Armed, illegal posses are permitted to show up at standoffs between federal law enforcement officials and scofflaws who insist on their "right" to graze cattle on public lands without paying for this privilege. 

And nothing happens. The scofflaws prevail. The armed, illegal thugs carry the day. Government law officials back down.

We are a nation in which guns are everywhere. We are a nation in which it is legally permitted in many states to carry assault rifles openly in grocery stores, as mothers with children shop for cereal and milk.

As the "good war," the second world war, wound down, my mother's brother, whose Army unit was involved in liberating Germany from Nazi torturers, was on patrol and happened on an S.S. officer hiding in a hut in the woods. The man was shaving. He spoke good English.

My uncle asked if the officer had a gun. He replied, saying he had no gun. My uncle then searched his hut and found a Luger pistol hidden under the mattress on his cot. At this point, the officer asked why my uncle didn't simply shoot him. 

"It's what I would have done if you had lied to me," he said. My uncle, who was an inoffensive, mild, quiet man, someone totally unfit for killing anyone in the world, a small-town American man who depended on his sisters to tie his tie and fight his fights, chose to take the Nazi officer prisoner, instead. He marched his captive back to camp. 

And now this (Charles Pierce is speaking):

Today, with the release of the executive summary of the congressional investigation into the American torture program, we have lost forever the right to moral leadership that we claimed at Nuremberg, and at the tribunals that investigated the actions of the Japanese in the Pacific. Those proceedings were based in two fundamental beliefs: a) that there are some activities that are beyond the law, even in wartime, and b) that the people responsible for those activities, even the worst of them, deserve a fair trial, and a trial that is open to the world, not only because the world needed to see the savagery of which humans are capable, but also because the trial would demonstrate to the world that there is a better way to resolve the issues raised by the native savagery of which people and nations are capable than the masturbatory exercise of blind vengeance.

Woe to me, woe to you, that we dwell in Meshek, among the tents of Kedar, with people ever ready for war — for school shootings, for assault rifles in grocery stores, for tortured prisoners standing on broken limbs and with intestines prolapsed from "rectal feeding." Woe to all of us that we live with a "sick Christianity" that finds it altogether easy to celebrate the violence, the torture, the execution of men with IQs below 80. 

We have lost forever the right to moral leadership.

No comments: