Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Worst Thing in the World

I have been working for a long time now on just how to register my agony from what the Bush administration did to this country when they sanctioned torture. My every attempt to date has been less than satisfactory to me.

Jeff Fecke at
Alas, a blog has succeeded where I have failed.
  • Once, we prided ourselves on being better than our enemies. It was not just idle boasting; the fact that America did not have the gulag system, did not disappear political enemies, did not torture its citizens or its enemies — these were not just signs that we were good people, but they were part of our national belief in our inherent moral superiority. Americans didn’t torture, we said, because we didn’t need to torture.
  • We didn’t condone torture. It wasn’t just wrong; it was un-American.
  • But in the past eight years, we now know, America abandoned that once-cherished belief. We stopped being a nation that would never stoop to torture, and started looking for ways to rationalize torture so that we could call it something else.
  • And today [16 April 2009] we found out that we used psychological forms of torment.
  • But while these memos don’t tell us anything new — well, not exactly — they do remind us of just what the previous administration thought of our national soul.
  • There are worse things that can happen to a nation than being attacked. The destruction that occurred on September 11, 2001 was awful, but it was transient; it was an awful moment in time, but it was just a moment in time. But in our reaction to it, our thoughtless invasion of Iraq, our shredding of civil liberties, and our embrace of torture methods perfected by our erstwhile enemies in the U.S.S.R. — by these actions, we lost a bit of what it was to be America. We lost a bit of our soul.
  • I will always despise George W. Bush and his cronies for that; they stained the very soul of this nation. May God have mercy on our souls for not stopping them, and may we find the strength to do what must be done to prevent this from happening again — and if that means prosecuting the bastards, that’s what we have to do.
We should have been forewarned. But most of us did not look, did not listen. George Bush always liked torture.
  • In 1967, a Yale Daily News article exposed hazing traditions that make the stories of contemporary initiation rites seem like a mere weeklong frat party. "Pledge week at DKE this fall began with a food fight," the article stated, "and ended with a hot branding iron applied to the small of each pledge's back." The article, stating that beatings and hot coat hangers bent in a "D" shape were routine parts of DKE initiation, led to a story in The New York Times a week later, in which President George W. Bush '68, a former DKE president, defended his fraternity's practices.
I read 1984 in my early teen years in the late 1950's. I KNEW that America did not do this. I breathed a sigh of relief upon finishing my trip to Oceana. I was safe. This would never be my country. I was wrong.

And so it seems that no matter whether we just go on or whether we set in motion some sort of justice for those at the top who instituted the torture, we lose. Prosecuting Bush, Cheney, Rice, Gonzales, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Jay Bybee, et al, may make us feel better, but it will never erase the terrible, terrible stain, the very stench of what they did to and in the name of this country.

Don't get me wrong. I yearn for GW to stand before the bar. I crave seeing Cheney, Gonzales, Rich, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Jay Bybee, et al, join him there. I want it to be clear that in this country, truly, no matter how high you sit, you must not injure this country. And they did. I want that made perfectly clear. I want it to never happen again.

However, at the very least, if we are NOT going to prosecute Bush administration members, we SHOULD pardon those soldiers who have already been convicted of actually carrying out the orders from higher ups. Trust me those soldiers never packed for Iraq by putting dog collars and leases into their bags: some one furnished those items and instructed the soldiers in how to use them to humiliate and intimidate the Iraqis.

What a continued, ongoing mess. Sad, sad.

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