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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Andrew Sullivan on torture « Previous | |Next »
January 27, 2005

If you have a moment this article is a good read. It is a review of two books by Andrew Sullivan in The New York Times on the US use of torture in Iraq. Sullivan is a neo-con in foreign policy, was a cheerleader for Irag the war and a libertarian yet he is critical of the use of torture as standard operating procedure in the war on terror.

Referring to the photos of Al Ghraib prison Sullivan says:

But the photographs lied. They told us a shard of the truth. In retrospect, they deflected us away from what was really going on, and what is still going on. The problem is not a co-ordinated cover-up. Nor is it a lack of information... Whatever happened was exposed in a free society; the military itself began the first inquiries...I confess to finding this transparency both comforting and chilling, like the photographs that kick-started the public's awareness of the affair. Comforting because only a country that is still free would allow such airing of blood-soaked laundry. Chilling because the crimes committed strike so deeply at the core of what a free country is supposed to mean. The scandal of Abu Ghraib is therefore a sign of both freedom's endurance in America and also, in certain dark corners, its demise.

The photos are the counterpoint to President Bush's 2nd inaugural speech arguing the cause of freedom around the world as they highlight the unfreedom of techniques, such as waterboarding, forced nudity, threatening the death of family members, use of dogs to induce stress, use of electric shocks, beating to a pulp, hooding and rape etc.

There is little wriggle room on that contradiction. The apologists try with a variety of dodges and there is a history of Congress going along with Presidents to put in place an extremely narrow definition of torture in the U.S. criminal torture statute.

As Marty Lederman points out Sullivan misses the central role of the CIA in the current legally sanctioned regime of highly coercive interrogation--interrogation that borders on torture. Marty Lederman points out that:

...the Bush adminstration Administration has worked assiduously to preserve the legal authority of the CIA to engage in highly coercive, often inhumane interrogation techniques against suspected Al Qaeda operatives at secret locations outside U.S. jurisdiction.

The Bush Administration has talked in public about how it is committed to treating detainees "humanely," whilst it has fought tooth and nail to be able to treat detainees inhumanely, i.e., in a manner that would be unconstitutional if done in the U.S. Hence it has fought to preserve the CIA "loophole" of using torture to treat detainees inhumanely outside the US.

Here we have what some political theorists call a state of exception,

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:07 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
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» Torture and the state of exception in the US from philosophy.com
This drawing by Jonathan Twingley in the New York Review of Books sets the scene. The other scene set can be found in a recent post at public opinion. It is Andrew Sullivan's book review of two books on torture in The New York Times. In this review we ... [Read More]

 
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