Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ariel Dorfman on Complicity

Marty Lederman

In this morning's Washington Post:

It was always the same story, what I discovered in the ensuing years, as I became an unwilling expert on all manner of torments and degradations, my life and my writing overflowing with grief from every continent. Each of those mutilated spines and fractured lives -- Chinese, Guatemalan, Egyptian, Indonesian, Iranian, Uzbek, need I go on? -- all of them, men and women alike, surrendered the same story of essential asymmetry, where one man has all the power in the world and the other has nothing but pain, where one man can decree death at the flick of a wrist and the other can only pray that the wrist will be flicked soon.

It is a story that our species has listened to with mounting revulsion, a horror that has led almost every nation to sign treaties over the past decades declaring these abominations as crimes against humanity, transgressions interdicted all across the earth. That is the wisdom, national and international, that has taken us thousands of years of tribulation and shame to achieve. That is the wisdom we are being asked to throw away when we formulate the question -- Does torture work? -- when we allow ourselves to ask whether we can afford to outlaw torture if we want to defeat terrorism.

I will leave others to claim that torture, in fact, does not work, that confessions obtained under duress . . . are useless. Or to contend that the United States had better not do that to anyone in our custody lest someday another nation or entity or group decides to treat our prisoners the same way.

I find these arguments -- and there are many more -- to be irrefutable. But I cannot bring myself to use them, for fear of honoring the debate by participating in it.

Can't the United States see that when we allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim and the perpetrator who are corrupted, not only the "intelligence" that is contaminated, but also everyone who looked away and said they did not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and age, that we must embrace its darkness?

Are we so morally sick, so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this? Are we so fearful, so in love with our own security and steeped in our own pain, that we are really willing to let people be tortured in the name of America?


This is one powerful argument, but one that the majority of us (complacent Americans) will never read, never contemplate. Sad, sad, sad, but we continue to denigrate the hopes and dreams of our heroic ancestors. We have shirked our duties and continue to miss every opportunity to do the right thing.

It's as Jefferson said of slavery:

"There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal. This quality is the germ of all education in him. From his cradle to his grave he is learning to do what he sees others do. If a parent could find no motive either in his philanthropy or his self-love, for restraining the intemperance of passion towards his slave, it should always be a sufficient one that his child is present. But generally it is not sufficient. The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to his worst of passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. And with what execration should the statesman be loaded, who permitting one half the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots, and these into enemies, destroys the morals of the one part, and the amor patriae of the other. ... And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever..."

I also think that the death penalty is of the same corrupting ilk. What kind of person is willing to kill another? A murderer. So we allow sadistic persons to carry out our laws, and we allow the legal process to be corrupted by the cries for vengeance from the so-called victims.

The fact that we as a society are morally corrupt causes me great pain.

YEP..I am really SICK of this Pro-Torture/Re-Definition Group of bAdmin supporters. Put up a post in response to these kind of folks who commentated over at Glenn Greenwalds.

(If yer interested- and don't mind the's Here.)

But at the same time I *wonder* if the best strategy for DEMs is to use and Expost-Facto Strategy: To lay low on the Torture thing - hell, they should even vote for it TO take it OFF the table as an issue...until AFTER the election.

Then they can FORCE the GOP to address economic and other election issues...since they would have *apparently* agreed to be tough on terrorist - and avoid all that painted-in-the-corner nonsense.

An Expost-Facto Strategy! *wink* (YES pun intended.)

Are we so morally sick, so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this?

Um, "yes"? How hard a question is that?

Doesn't anyone read "Eichman in Jerusalem" any more??

Please consider signing the Statement of Conscience at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

If my life is going to mean anything, I have to live it myself.
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