Really great, succinct New Yorker piece about torture and the Abu Ghraib investigations. I think this is very sharp–it articulates a couple of important points; one, that the Abu Ghraib reports were not a fluke and, as indicatrors of much larger problems with American policy, should have been a moment for serious reflection and reform; secondly, that torture is really under-examined (surprisingly so, I think) along the dimensions of morality, humanity, and what we as a country feel we can tolerate.

Yet it became almost immediately apparent—and has been confirmed repeatedly in the years since, most recently with President Obama’s decision to release four Bush Administration memorandums seeking to establish a legal justification for the use of torture—that the Abu Ghraib photographs showed not individuals run amok but American policy in action. (From those memos, we now know that Bush Administration lawyers had a technical term for what Charles Graner called bashing a man against a wall. The term is “walling.”)

The natural first reaction on seeing the photographs of American soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners in Saddam Hussein’s old dungeons was to ask: Why are we doing such things to them? With time, however, Americans have come increasingly to understand that it is equally appropriate to ask: Why are we doing such things to ourselves? Why dismantle the laws that have made our country worth fighting and dying for against states that torture? Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has said that we must torture because it is effective. That is, at best, a false argument: a crime is not absolved just because it works. (After all, terrorism can be effective.) President Obama, in his press conference last week, cut through the noise to the essence of the issue. Torture, he said, “corrodes the character of a country.”

Here’s the full article if you’re interested.


The Twits

4 May 2009



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