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December 14, 2005

We've been down this road before.

Does it somehow lessen todayís horrors to admit that this is not the first time the US government has used torture, that it has operated secret prisons before, that it has actively supported regimes that tried to erase the left by dropping students out of airplanes? That, closer to home, photographs of lynchings were traded and sold as trophies and warnings? Many seem to think so.

Other cultures deal with a legacy of torture by declaring "Never again!" Why do so many Americans insist on dealing with the current torture crisis by crying "Never before"? I suspect it stems from a sincere desire to convey the seriousness of this administrationís crimes. And its open embrace of torture is indeed unprecedented.

I suspect it's because, an "avalanche" books notwithstanding, there are few USofA citizens who voluntarily pick up and read books on our country's recent history. And certainly not about Vietnam, which remains a deeply troubling topic for many of us.

Anything suggesting that the USofA's past isn't drenched in the light of virtuous morality is erased from the curriculum of our k-12 schools and even at university, I suspect that only students taking narrowly focused classes hear any of this kind of thing.

Despite all the talk of outsourced torture, the real innovation has been in-sourcing, with prisoners being abused by US citizens in US-run prisons and transported to third countries in US planes. It is this departure from clandestine etiquette that has so much of the military and intelligence community up in arms: Bush has robbed everyone of plausible deniability.

Very true.

This shift is of huge significance. When torture is covertly practised but officially and legally repudiated, there is still hope that if atrocities are exposed, justice could prevail. Soon victims no longer bother to search for justice, so sure are they of the futility, and danger, of that quest. This is a larger mirror of what happens inside the torture chamber, when prisoners are told they can scream all they want because no one can hear them and no one is going to save them.

Sadly, I think it could happen. I think the USofA public could become numb enough to these stories, especially with so many urgent domestic problems to worry about closer to home, that torturing "foreign" people in faraway countries could tacitly pass into acceptance.

There's a principle at stake but how much of the population has time to fight for that principle while their jobs are uncertain, when the much-denied "housing bubble" may be about to pop, erasing much of their net worth, as their childrens' schools continue to decline, and as the air, water, food, and medicine they consume daily are increasingly revealed to be potential sources of illness or even death, and as this country's infrastructure visibly crumbles around our ears?

Posted by AnneZook at 10:36 AM