The new mainstream American value of torture is steeped in self-deception, legal justification, and propaganda. We idolize torturers in our favorite TV programs, and are happy to see our enemies (real and imagined) vicariously taken apart in order to protect our beacon of freedom. It is an Orwellian undertaking. Only a massive propaganda effort and a healthy dose of self-delusion can explain poll numbers that show a split verdict on the subject of torture’s legitimacy, when it has been proven to be completely unreliable in true intelligence gathering — not even when a “Jack Bauer” is working against a ticking bomb. We must conclude, then, that it is a type of blood sport, or a self-righteous power trip that expresses itself in the sheer enjoyment of the punishment inflicted against evildoers.
Long before there was Jack Bauer to hold a blow torch to someone’s chest, there was the blood-soaked march across the ages, and the planet, inspired by fundamentalist religions. Sacrifices to Gods eventually waned, Inquisitions passed, and formal witch trials disappeared, to be supplanted by a new type of faith: The State.
The slaughters conducted by Stalin, Mao, and other decidedly Left governments, were not to be outdone by the iconoclasts of the Right. It is a cynical admission, but it seems that torture has been around so long, and in so many forms, that it is part of who we are. Evidently, we are easily whipped into a frenzy of self-righteousness that will not stop until the torture apparatus is turned upon the screaming body politic. By then, it is too late. The next generation is left to evaluate what could have led to such horrendous mass insanity.
The melting pot of modern America would seem immune to a torture doctrine; each ethnicity has their own history of horrific religious or State persecution. Many times, the arrival to America was an escape toward a nation of sound laws and founding documents that elevated the individual rights they sought. Could it be that a nation built by rugged individuals simply cannot believe that their government could become a tyranny similar to those they fled? And, yet, the evidence of history is clear: any government that uses torture never stops with the initial target of revenge. It becomes a point of no return, past which no one is immune. And, sure enough, today we see the progression from overseas non-citizens, to American citizens overseas, then citizens on American soil, and now we learn of a new bipartisan Domestic Terrorism Agency that will set up the new parameters for the sweeping inclusion of both action and thought for main street America.
But we are a nation of laws, right? Wrong. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with the most bloodthirsty, well-documented, torture gang on the planet — the CIA. They have ruled that the secrets of the State are more important than the rights of the individual. Openly. Until this point, the research and actions of the CIA have been clandestine, hidden under jungle canopies, and given plausible deniability by their black ops missions. So, down the slippery slope we slide to a place where torture has become a mainstream debate. This era will not be one looked upon fondly in the annals of American history.
In our hearts, we know what torture is. We don’t need the ACLU to define it for us, nor for Jack Bauer or the courts to convince us that there are certain exclusions.
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