Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Andrew Sullivan's Correct Take on Durbin's Gitmo comments

I wish I were savvy enough just to put a link, but I am not.

When you read the account Durbin was citing you notice an important thing: the detainees were thoroughly dehumanized, robbed of any personal dignity, left in extremes of heat and cold, shackled, covered in their own urine and excrement, with one having apparently torn parts of his hair out, and left without food or water for up to 24 sleepless hours. Durbin could have quoted worse incidents - and there are many, far worse cases - but he wanted to ensure that his incident was testified by an FBI official. The moral question that Durbin is absolutely right to raise is a simple one: two years ago, would you have ever believed that the United States would be guilty of such a dehumanized treatment of a prisoner in its care? If the particulars had been changed, would you have believed that such a thing could have happened in a totalitarian regime's prison? Does the way in which human beings have been completely robbed of dignity, treated cruelly and turned figuratively into "barking dogs" shock your conscience? The moral question is not simply of degree - how widespread and systematic is this kind of inhumanity? It is of kind: is this the kind of behavior more associated with despots than with democracies? Of course it is. When a country starts treating its prisoners like animals, it has lost its moral bearings; and, in the case of the United States, is also breaking its own laws (and, in this case, the president has declared himself above the law). I don't know about Hugh Hewitt, Bill Kristol or NR, but I supported this war in large part because I wanted to end torture, abuse and cruelty in Iraq. I did not support it in order, two and a half years later, to be finding specious rhetorical justifications for torture, abuse and cruelty by Americans. I'm sick of hearing justifications that the enemy is worse. This is news? This is what now passes for analysis? They are far, far worse, among the most despicable and evil enemies we have ever faced. Our treatment of their prisoners is indeed Club Med compared to their fathomless barbarism. But since when is our moral compass set by them? The West is a civilization built on a very fragile web of law and humanity. We do not treat people in our custody as animals. We do not justify it. We do not change the subject. We do not accuse those highlighting it of aiding the enemy. We do not joke about it. We simply don't do it. This administration - by design, improvisation, desperation, arrogance, incompetence, and wilfull blindness - has enabled this to occur. They must be held accountable until this cancer is rooted out for good. It has metastasized enough already.

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