No Comment — May 23, 2007, 8:20 am

The Party of Torture vs. The Party of Lincoln

Kudos to Greg Djerejian, who demonstrates extraordinary care and insight in dissecting the current infantile banter in the rightwing blogosphere on the issue of torture. Given Karl Rove’s decision to use torture as an election issue in two national elections so far, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Republican base has drunk the Kool-Aid. Nor should we be surprised that the Republican base is ignorant of the great legacy of the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. The current Republican base consists largely of Dixiecrats raised on hatred for Lincoln and indifference towards Teddy Roosevelt. On the stage that evening, only McCain and Ron Paul seemed to know and care about that legacy. Indeed, the laugh and applause punctuating the debate demonstrated an audience as much at odds with reality as the Fox News team who hosted the event.

At the time of our nation’s founding we defined ourselves through a few fundamental values–and one of the most important of these was the idea, put forward with exemplary clarity by George Washington, that prisoners must always be treated humanely. No prisoner was to be tortured or harmed, and the religious confession of each prisoner was to be accorded full respect. How far from these noble premises the Bush Administration has fallen. What lesser men they are than our country’s founders.

The key among many very clear-eyed observations that Greg puts forward are these:

To the press corps, I say, the next time a Presidential candidate says “I’m not for torture, only enhanced interrogation techniques”, ask them whether induced hypothermia, sleep deprivation and water-boarding are torture? Then remind them of our treaty obligations under CAT. Ask them whether they think the “enhanced interrogation techniques” would be acceptable pursuant to Article III of the Geneva Convention? Do they wish to repudiate them? Or do they think we can do these things and not run afoul of these standards? Again, how? What will become increasingly clear is that leading Republican candidates are running on a platform that has us repudiating our treaty obligations and watering-down our constitutional standards.

So the American people will have a choice: are we to slide towards rogue nation status on such issues, or repudiate the profoundly damaging legacy of the last 6 years and regain the mantle of leading avatar of human rights in the international arena? I hope and trust Abraham Lincoln’s ‘better angels’ of human nature will prevail in this great country, and no major political party will be voted into power that is in favor of authorizing the use of techniques–by any instrumentality of the US Government–that constitute torture under internationally recognized norms.

This is about preserving our culture and our good name. These things are not irrelevant. They were won at great cost in blood and human suffering. They are being forfeited in the most foolish fashion. Once gone, the cost of recovery will be immense. In the very sage words of Abraham Lincoln’s law of war advisor, Francis Lieber:

Where no discipline is enforced in war a state of things results which resembles far more the [wars of religion] than the regular wars of modern times. And such a state of thing results speedily, too; for all growth, progress and rearing, moral or material, are slow; all destruction, relapse and degeneracy fearfully rapid. It requires the power of the Almighty and a whole century to grow an oak tree; but only a pair of arms, an ax, and an hour or two to cut it down.

Under George W. Bush our nation has entered into a period of frightful relapse and degeneracy. It has turned from its own moral legacy. It remains for those of us who care to speak out and try to stem this damage before it is too late.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2014

The End of Retirement

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Octopus and Its Grandchildren

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Francis and the Nuns

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Return of the Strongman

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
 Jessica Bruder on the end of retirement, Mary Gordon on the new Vatican, Laura Kipnis on narcissism, and more
Article
The End of Retirement·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“For those riding the economy’s outermost edge, adaptation may now mean giving up what full-time RV dwellers call ‘stick houses’ to hit the road and seek work.”
Photograph (detail) © Max Whittaker
Post
God Lives on Lemon Street·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Bethel was Oz-like for me. I mean that with all the awe, utter hopefulness, and mythic fear with which Dorothy and her friends had approached that magical city.”
Photograph (detail) ©© Clemens v. Vogelson (Flickr)
Article
The Octopus and Its Grandchildren·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On Stanford University’s origins and vision
“The pervasive fantasy that Silicon Valley doesn’t need the government obscures the role of that government in funding much of the research that built it.”
Photograph © Sallie Dean Shatz
Post
World Cup Boom and Bust·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I’m not giving a dime to FIFA. You know they’re not paying taxes on any of this?”
Photograph © The author

Chance that an American believes Ramadan is the Jewish day of atonement:

1 in 10

Mathematicians discovered the existence of a pseudoprime that is the sum of 10,333,229,505 known primes and contains roughly 295 billion digits but cannot be represented precisely because the mathematician who found it lacks sufficient RAM.

On the eve of Independence Day in Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko delivered a speech in Belarusian instead of Russian for the first time in 20 years, disproving rumors that he can no longer speak the language.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today