Evil. and the Liberal Vocabulary
(This was the very first diary I ever posted on the internet, way back in June 2007, and some of it is dated, but since Dick Cheney has been all over TV recently urging President Obama to stop “dithering” and “do what it takes to win” in Afghanistan, I decided it was worth reposting.)
If you’re a liberal, you can say that George Bush isn’t very smart, and Dick Cheney isn’t very nice, and that’s about the end of it. A million liberal blogs and columns grind away at synonyms for “not nice” and “not smart” year after year, but the Republicans still control 49 seats in the Senate, and Fox News still has a license to broadcast.
Bush-Cheney chained up a 78 year-old Afghan man in a fetal position at Guantanamo for more than 24 hours, while he pissed and shat all over himself. The New York Times and the Washington Post are still a little fuzzy about what to call this procedure, and the rest of the media is even more obtuse. When John McCain sponsored a very weak bill to restrict this method of “interrogation,” Dick Cheney ran through every office in the Capitol trying to defeat it, and he succeeded. The same sort of thing is happening at this very moment in a secret CIA prison somewhere, and if you don’t know what to call it, I can tell you.
It’s torture, Stupid!
Sometimes the CIA asks agents in training to undergo water-boarding for as long as they can possibly stand it, in order to familiarize themselves with this standard tool of the Agency.
They don’t last a minute.
If you don’t know what to call water-boarding someone for hour after hour, and then water-boarding him again the next day, and the next, and chaining him up in “stress positions” in the intermissions… if you don’t know what to call it, I can tell you, Stupid!
Fox popularizes torture on its program “24,” and this thing won the Emmy for best drama last year. The bomb is always ticking, and nothing can prevent the end of the world except torturing a prisoner.
In a recent debate, all the Republican candidates for the Presidential nomination in 2008 except John McCain endorsed torture under the pretext of this ridiculous scenario. Has such a thing ever occurred in the history of the world? When? Where? Nobody seems to know, or care.
Somehow the United States managed to destroy the Nazi juggernaut and outlast the Soviet Empire without torturing prisoners. Roosevelt never endorsed torture, and neither did Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, or Bill Clinton, nor any of the Presidents who came before them, nor any of the Vice-Presidents who served with them.
Any idiot could have alleged the same “ticking bomb” scenario for a Nazi counter-attack or Soviet missile launch at any time in the last 60 years. The armies of great industrial nations attacked us, we were threatened with weapons of apocalyptic power, but torture continued to be condemned as the most contemptible and disgusting of all human actions.
We lost the concept of evil. Evil… it sounds a little quaint. Who would use such a word except for a few Bible-bangers in some forgotten valley? The word went away, and the concept went away, and we didn’t recognize the thing when it came upon us.
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are evil men, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out, but somehow almost none of us have seen it or said it in all these years.
The men and women who chain up prisoners like pretzels and suffocate them in sound-proof chambers work for Bush-Cheney, and even if the blood and piss and shit of the prisoners never stains the fingers of Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney, or their supporters in Congress, or the Generals who saved their careers instead of the honor of the United States, all of them are guilty of torture, and more guilty than semi-educated hillbillies who carry out their orders.
All these men must be driven out of every position of trust or authority. Every prisoner who underwent the obscenities of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and all the other nightmare installations must be compensated to the limit of our power to heal and restore them.
But the honor and decency of the United States cannot be reclaimed, and we cannot heal ourselves or our prisoners, until we recognize the thing that entangled us in the most contemptible and disgusting of all human actions, and name it with its ancient, forgotten name.