Is there a fine line or a bright line between a free and democratic nation interrogating a terrorism suspect and torturing a terrorism suspect?
The 279 images from Abu Ghraib appear to confirm the bright line between right and wrong has purposefully been pressed into the fuzzy and dark:
Although the world is now sadly familiar with images of naked, hooded prisoners in scenes of horrifying humiliation and abuse, this is the first time that the full dossier of the Army’s own photographic evidence of the scandal has been made public.Most of the photos have already been seen, but the Army’s own analysis of the story behind the photos has never been fully told.
It is a shocking, night-by-night record of three months inside Abu Ghraib’s notorious cellblock 1A, and it tells the story, in more graphic detail than ever before, of the rampant abuse of prisoners there.
Bob Herbert, in today’s New York Times, argues:
The people at the top are getting scared, that’s what’s going on. The fog of secrecy is lifting, and the Bush administration is frightened to death that it will eventually have to pay a heavy price for the human rights abuses it has ordered or condoned in its so-called war on terror.The Supreme Court has ruled that the Geneva Conventions apply to the prisoners seized by the administration, which means that abusing those prisoners — as so many have said for so long — is unquestionably illegal. ….
Bush, Cheney & Co. are desperately trying to hold together a house of cards that is ready to collapse because their strategy and tactics for fighting terrorism were slapped together with no real regard for the rule of law.
What we’ve seen over the past few years has been a nightmare version of the United States. Torture? Secret prisons? Capital trials in which key evidence is kept from the accused?
That’s the stuff of Kafka, not Madison and Jefferson.
Paul Krugman joins the analysis:
Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. According to an ABC News report from last fall, procedures used by C.I.A. interrogators have included forcing prisoners to “stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours”; the “cold cell,” in which prisoners are forced “to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees,” while being doused with cold water; and, of course, water boarding, in which “the prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet,” then “cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him,” inducing “a terrifying fear of drowning.” …So why is the Bush administration so determined to torture people? To show that it can. The central drive of the Bush administration — more fundamental than any particular policy — has been the effort to eliminate all limits on the president’s power.
Torture, I believe, appeals to the president and the vice president precisely because it’s a violation of both law and tradition. By making an illegal and immoral practice a key element of U.S. policy, they’re asserting their right to do whatever they claim is necessary.
Have we lost the advantage of the high road and staking our claim as a nation along the higher moral ground?
To fight the down and dirty must we become them? If the United States is, as many proclaim — “the most civilized society in the world” — what message is sent to other nations when we take up the arms of the Barbarian and not the means of the Civilized in order to press fear, instead of trust, into our threadbare moral fiber?
We all can’t be demons. We all cannot be terrorists.
Yet we are all still brushed aside with the bright, broad strokes of a darkening national policy hoping to strangle the international wicked while grasping for straws in the Homeland.