Just Above Sunset
June 20, 2004 - Speak for yourself, white man!
Christopher Hitchens. What to make of him – former leftie journalist for The Nation (who else
knew and chatted with Che Guevara?), who transformed himself into a pro-Bush hawk (seeing Bush as dumb as a post but the man
we need now, given the circumstances) – immensely well-informed (ask him about any minor Kurdish splinter group or who’s
who the secondary struggles for control of select and obscure areas of Cypress) - and amazingly articulate in his hard-drinking
British way. Hyper-intelligent. Watch
him on the cable news discussion shows make a blithering fool of Ann Coulter (smiling slyly) - then turn around a rail about
our need to destroy the evil forces of odd Muslim thought in this world with a new Crusade.
Well, his positions are far more nuanced than Ann’s – as she has famously said she just wants us to convert
all the leaders of the Arab world into Christians or kill them, one or the other, and she said Terry Nichols should have blown
up the New York Times offices instead of that federal office building Okalahoma City.
Hitchens adds other options and more subtle detail.
In a recent public debate, so I was told, an American officer referred to the Abu Ghraib scandal
as a "moral Chernobyl." You might think that this was overstating matters, even if in one important sense—because Chernobyl
was morally an accident, albeit in some ways a "systemic" one—it is actually understating them.
Yes, for the last week
or more the word has been floating around the news sites on the web, and on the opinion sites, that there are stills and video
of US soldiers raping Iraq women prisoners, a tape of the homosexual rape of an Iraqi pre-teen fellow by a enthusiastic male
contractor, one of the interrogators we hired from a San Diego company, and various stills and videos of US soldiers beating
Iraq prisoners to death.
Many, many people must have fantasized about getting Osama Bin Laden into some version of an orange jumpsuit and then shackling him for a while to the wrong end of a large pig. It's not very far from that mass reverie to "Hey, Mustapha, you're gonna get to really know this porker" and similar or worse depravities. So in a distressing sense—of course you can all write to me if you like and say that you never even thought about it—we face something like a collective responsibility, if not exactly a collective guilt.
Speak for yourself, white
… In the early 1970s, there was a gigantic scandal in England over the torture of Irish
Republican detainees. (Harold Evans, then editor of the Sunday Times,
deserves credit for printing the facts in spite of immense government pressure not to do so—or not to do so without
being accused of "helping the terrorists.") The resulting outrage led to a commission of inquiry chaired by a judge named
Sir Edmund Compton. His report took a dim view of some of the methods used but
said that these did not amount to "torture," at least in most cases, because those inflicting them had not derived any pleasure
from doing so. At the time, I thought this must be some kind of a sick joke,
perhaps derived from Monty Python or the rigors of English boarding school. ("I
didn't really enjoy it, Sir." "Oh well, that's all right, then. Carry on, Perkins.")
However, the government did tell the army to stop it, and it pretty much did stop, and the terrorists didn't win.
Fine. Too late now. Lazy and incompetent dirtbags rule.
… we shall be fighting a war against jihad for decades to come. And the jihadists will continue to make big mistakes based on their mad theory. And they are not superhuman: They can be infiltrated, bribed, and turned. You don't have to tell them what time of day it is, or where they are, or when the next meal will be served. (Though it must be served.) But you must not bring in that pig or that electrode. That way lies madness and corruption and the extraction of junk confessions. So even if law and principle didn't enter into the question, we sure as hell know what doesn't work. The cranky Puritan voice of Sir Edmund Compton comes back to me down the corridor of the years: If it gives anyone pleasure, then you are doing it wrong and doing wrong into the bargain.
I hate to agree with this man.
But I do.
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