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:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2016

The Hamilton Cult

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Held Back

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Division Street

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Innocents

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quiet Car

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Psychedelic Trap

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Hamilton Cult·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The past is complicated, and explaining it is not just a trick, but a gamble."
Illustration by Jimmy Turrell
Article
Division Street·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Perfectly sane people lose access to housing every day, though the resultant ordeal may undermine some of that sanity, as it might yours and mine."
Photograph © Robert Gumpert
Article
Held Back·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"'We don’t know where the money went!' a woman cried out. 'They looted it! They stole our money!'"
Artwork by Mischelle Moy
Article
The Quiet Car·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.

Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.

Photograph by Joshua Lutz
Article
Innocents·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion."
Photograph © Nadia Shira Cohen

Average amount of time a child spends in Santa Claus’s lap at Macy’s (in seconds):

37

Beer does not cause beer bellies.

Following the arrest of at least 10 clowns in Kentucky and Alabama, Tennesseans were warned that clowns could be “predators” and Pennsylvanians were advised not to interact with what one police chief described as “knuckleheads with clown-like clothes on.”

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today