-->What Open Torture Policy Means To Us
Eventually, torturers hear what they want to hear. For its practitioners therein lies great charm, a cleansing, confirmatory, redemptive appeal. Of course admitting that would spoil much of the fun. So instead, torture's proponents would have us believe it's about finding the imminent threat, disarming that nuclear suitcase-bomb set to go off in (insert your city here) in an hour, but it has little to do with that blitheringly false hypothetical, nor with truth. No, not to do with truth at all. It's about two things. First, it's about kidding oneself into thinking it elicits truth. Far more importantly, it's about a sadistic, deep-rooted, simplistic need to express dominance and be loved for it. To inflict one's power, and to hear those supplications and sweet surrendurs, is a delight. Torturers freely admit to that, to what they get out of it. "You see," they will say, "that's all we ever wanted to hear." They share the unwholesome, misguided, self-righteous squalor of the priests sent to drive out the Devils of Loudun.
Writers like Jonathon Schwarz (A Tiny Revolution) and IOZ (Who is IOZ) get exasperated with the naivete and the perma-"shock, shock!" of various liberal writers who decry torture in its current yankee doodle dandy contortions, so they skewer those who collectively maintain, "This isn't the United States I know." Their point is well taken. We've assassinated leaders, overthrown governments, shot into crowds and trodden on people's collective wills so Dole and United Fruit could make a few more pennies on pineapples, reap a few more bushels of bananas. (Hence the term, "Banana Republic.") So why should torture suddenly offend?
Supposedly informed intelligentsia should be fully aware that Americans bestialized upwards of 250,000 Filipino natives into the hereafter while suppressing a tribal insurgency circa 1900, that black slaves and citizens were routinely tortured to death for "respect," prison camps in the US Civil War made Dachau look like day camp, and I have yet to see an American Indian in a Thanksgiving Day parade. The torture streak runs as deep with us as with everybody else, if not a recent gouge or two deeper. This country has been international torture's examplar, mentor, and prime exporter of technique and quantity for the last 50 years and more.
Torture spans a cyclically linked continuum. On the one end, it starts with your kid interrupting you, escalates to drivers who don't use turn signals while obstructing traffic to float around potential parking spots like moths blind to light, proceeds past chronic sleep deprivation and barrels on to giving genitalia "a jump" with car batteries, gets down to repeated drowning and resuscitation, and finally devolves to killing off the members of your family in front of your eyes. As of last week, our President now proudly admits that we're torturing, for the benefit of all Americans, in Uncle Sam's name.
"Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people." Bush told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. "And yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."Shame, and still deeper shame. While the bald, defiant maintenance of its absence comes slinking 'round to the light at last. It makes me realize how keeping up outward appearances has salutary effects, hypocrisy is necessary for the maintenance of mores, and double standards are, well, standard. Denouncing torture while your minions are off enthusiastically performing it at least gives the impression you're against it in principle, so torture is placed in a cultural context of criminality, illegitimacy and risk.
In such contexts, government employees engage in torture at their peril, a fact with which they're fully conversant. The Ocracies in question remember every "rogue agent" story which has occasionally emanated from the White House and Congress. They remember the wrecked reputations, fortunes, and careers. One such story was most famously woven in the wake of Vietnam, wherein we are expected to believe a few Bad Apples departed from official, ethical norms to engage in personal lapses of uncondoned nastiness, lapses which had nothing whatsoever to do with the doctrine known as "Killing Hope." Agents were hung out to dry, wrists were slapped, additional layers of safeguards were set. That's why the agencies were so careful to lay bread-crumbs this time around, to obtain clarification and endorsement: "Is this what you really want us to do? And you're willing to go on the record?" "This is your baby, go get it done," was the executive order.
We're on new ground, a soggy bottom the full implications of which even the leftiest snarkers and most liberal jihad-coddlers alike seem to miss. We finally have an open torture policy, one which our First Zombie announced in public, in front of cameras with words he grunted and hummed deep from in his ruined throat. Although it has and will continue to find its way home, this program of torture emanates from wellsprings of xenophobia, racism, and a yet more base pathology which has no name but may foment in serial killers. The difference from the America of Before is, no one has to be afraid of torturing anymore.
We cannot survive without ordinary truth to nurture our inner selves. Many if not most of us die in our twenties, after a relatively brief period of consciousness emerging from thoughtless childhood cruelty, eventually succumbing to our appetites, collections of multiple vices. It's so hard to keep noticing, to keep observing, to keep caring. But I want to be alive, this boy inside me wants to go on living. And the zombies behind simply shuffled along and repeated what the First Zombie said. They are still heading for their Long War, moaning and jostling each other on the way to mindlessly mortify yet more flesh. Maybe a lot more flesh than they already have. The full implication is that they're going to make us into zombies, too.