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Paging Hannah Arendt


For the past few days, the web has been alive with analysis comments, discussion, sarcasm and consideration about the “torture memo” written by the U.S. Department of Justice. And whaddyaknow, that memo and the increasing evidence that the thinking it represents spawned a culture of cruelty is changing some minds about this mess we call a “war.”

A lawyer in the employment of the government of the United States, now a federal judge, wrote a memo outlining the details of appropriate torture, how it should be used and when it should be applied. And he sent it to the White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales. That’s right. Torture. Defined by the government of the United States. Not the USSR. Not the Chinese. Not the Koreans. Nope. The good, er, formerly good, ole U.S. of A.
Try and read the memo (there’s a link to the full text on the Washington Post site). See if your curiosity overrides your impatient disgust and lets you read past the first page or two. It’s almost too much. Because all you can think about – unless, of course you’ve spent the past month under a rock – is Pfc. Lynndie England’s grin. Then think about Sy Hersh’s prediction when he first broke the Abu Ghraib story: “More to come” and this account of a speech Hersh gave recently in Chicago.
For the last word of many last words, a look at conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan who cites former Vietnam POW John McCain’s: “It’s just incredible,” Republican Senator John McCain told Time. “Why doesn’t every nation in the world now have a green light to do everything it thinks is necessary to combat a ‘terrorist threat’?” McCain’s comments are the ones that are really making people think.
“I can’t believe I’m a hawk” Christopher Hitchens has started talking sense about the mess in Iraq — it almost seems polite to call it a ‘war’ — for the first time in a long time. Even William F. Buckley has chimed in.
Conservatives like Sullivan and Buckley and soon to be former Hawks like Hitchens are trying to assure themselves that a few individuals have latched on to a cause – the cause of stopping terrorism, of saving U.S. lives – and corrupted the good name and values of the cause because they were misguided or improperly trained. This is wishful thinking. And, reading all three you get the feeling they know it, too.
Here’s the ever-eloquent Buckley, a man old enough – unlike the others cited here – to have briefly served in World War II and, when the war was over, the CIA: “People are wanting to know what are the relevant jurisdictions, and what tribunals do we have in mind to convoke in order to satisfy ourselves — and the world — that America wants more than merely to punish the people who did it. We need to punish also the people who let it happen.”
Conservative voices are standing up and refusing to look the other way. Things are, as Hersh told his Chicago audience, as Hitchens points out in his piece on “Moral Chernobyl” going to get even worse. And you Democrats out there better not cheer. This is serious stuff. It’s past politics. It’s worse than that, I’m afraid.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 9:38 AM | Permalink

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