It’s becoming an exercise in masochism, reading back over what was said in the early days of the Bush administration, back when many people still thought the president was due the benefit of the doubt.Jonathan Alter, who still gets invited to all the right parties, for example:
In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts
turning to… torture. OK, not cattle prods or rubber hoses, at least
not here in the United States, butsomething to jump-start
the stalled investigation of the greatest crime in American history.
Right now, four key hijacking suspects aren’t talking at all.
we at least subject them to psychological torture, like tapes of dying
rabbits or high-decibel rap? (The military has done that in Panama and
elsewhere.) How about truth serum, administered with a mandatory IV? Or
deportation to Saudi Arabia, land of beheadings? (As the frustratedFBI
has been threatening.) Some people still argue that we needn’t rethink
any of our old assumptions about law enforcement, but they’re
hopelessly “Sept. 10”–living in a country that no longer exists.
But even as we continue to speak out against human-rights abuses around
the world, we need to keep an open mind about certain measures to fight
terrorism, like court-sanctioned psychological interrogation. And we’ll
have to think about transferring some suspects to our less squeamish
allies, even if that’s hypocritical. Nobody said this was going to be
I got pointed back to Alter’s toolier prose (yes, he was at one time toolier than he is now, though I know it’s hard to fathom) by this:
“If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the
time, you probably aren’t doing your job,” said one official who has
supervised the capture and transfer of accused terrorists. “I don’t
think we want to be promoting a view of zero tolerance on this. That
was the whole problem for a long time with the CIA…”
on December 26, 2002, only months after the capture of Abu Zubaydah. A
similarly lengthy report followed a few months later on the front page
ofThe New York Times (“Interrogations: Questioning Terror
Suspects in a Dark and Surreal World”). The blithe, aggressive tone of
the officials quoted—”We don’t kick the [expletive] out of them. We
send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of
them”—bespeaks a very different political temper, one in which a
prominent writer in a national newsmagazine could headline his weekly
column “Time to Think About Torture,” noting in his subtitle that in
this “new world…survival might well require old techniques that
seemed out of the question.
The reason we here left blogtopia get so het up over faux-liberal put-upon pussitude like Alter’s is that we’ve been listening to it nonstop for like nineteen thousand fucking years, for fuck’s sake. It’s been going on forever, it’s the same dumb pose it always was, and Mark Danner’s piece demonstrates pretty clearly that it bore real consequences in the form of people having the shit kicked out of them. People Jonathan Alter has never met, probably doesn’t care to meet, and has forgotten he wrote about them in the first place, if hiscurrent crop of columns bemoaning the death of true bipartisanship are any indication.
Either it never occurred to them that if they were wrong about this whole badass Manly Men Kick Tied-Up Dudes For Fun pose they’d look like just the world’s biggest dicks, or they didn’t care because eight years later we’d all be freaked out about something entirely different and thus wouldn’t give enough of a shit to try to get them fired for being the world’s biggest dicks.
Either way, seems to be working out pretty nicely for Alter. Not so much, for others:
several days strapped to a bed, then for several weeks shackled to a
chair, bathed unceasingly in white light, bombarded constantly with
loud sound, deprived of food; and whenever, despite cold, light, noise,
hunger, the hours and days force his eyelids down, cold water is
sprayed in his face to force them up.
Nobody said this was going to be pretty.