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3/14/05


 

SAVAGERY

By David Podvin

Ann Coulter is not merely eighty pounds of toxic sewage wrapped in six feet of reptile skin - she is the vicious ghoul that remains after conservatism has been scrubbed of its camouflage. Satan’s concubine has been vocal in her belief that torturing anyone identified as the enemy is good, and that torturing them using the most excruciating techniques is better. Coulter is not alone in the desire to feast on human suffering. Although she is considerably less circumspect than other right wingers, it is instructive that not one prominent conservative has repudiated her.

Invoking God and country, the Confederates who currently run the United States are striving to make Andersonville a global phenomenon. Since 9/11, Republicans have dispatched domestic agents and foreign surrogates to torture countless people on various continents. Unsurprisingly, the reprobates have not been content to torment their prey physically. Conservatives are implementing a policy to humiliate other human beings, shaming their victims in the vilest ways imaginable, apparently oblivious that the true shame of this outrage is being inflicted upon the United States. Our own pious moralists have disgraced America in the eyes of everyone who does not view savagery as a virtue.

Republicans say that world opinion is irrelevant, and to this limited extent they are correct: if every other nation approved of torture, it would still be totally indefensible. Even when operating under the diminished ethical standards of a conservative administration, simple decency dictates that torture must be repudiated. Sometimes killing people is unavoidable, but attaching electrical wires to their testicles is always avoidable. Such behavior is perverse and craven, as are those who authorize it.

America’s current policymaker was a prodigy at pain implementation. George W. Bush began his highly successful career in sadism by exploding frogs with firecrackers.[1] He soon advanced to shooting his siblings with bb guns,[2] evolved to tormenting fraternity pledges at Yale,[3] and then progressed to taunting prisoners[4] as they were being lethally injected. The former Texas governor has now graduated to terrorizing civilians from Port au Prince to Baghdad and beyond. Mr. Bush has always delighted in imposing despair, and as the Leader Of The Free World he possesses carte blanche to satisfy his voracious hunger for harming others.

Bush’s appetite for destruction has earned him the abiding respect of motorcycle gangs and religious conservatives alike. There is no discernible outrage from William Bennett when civilians are kidnapped and subjected to grotesque forms of persecution. There is no indignation from Jerry Falwell when children are raped as an incentive for their parents to become more cooperative. There is no call for impeachment from Henry Hyde when the commander-in-chief violates the Constitution by sanctioning behavior that replicates the worst of Joseph Mengele. And when innocent people who have been abused are finally freed from their nightmare, there is no demand for a special prosecutor from Tom DeLay.

The entire scenario reeks of iniquity, especially the connivance of farming out torture victims to Third World regimes for the purposes of skirting American law and creating plausible deniability. In at least one case the revealing result was the resurrection of auto-da-fé, the Inquisitional custom of disciplining interrogation subjects who provide disappointing answers by burning them at the stake. Five centuries have passed since the evangelistic ministry of Tomás de Torquemada, but his spirit still infuses fundamentalists everywhere.

Regardless of the religion, those who discern the voice of God have always been crazier than shithouse rats. Osama bin Laden hears Allah telling him to torture and kill. George W. Bush hears Jesus Christ telling him to do the same. Their personal rivalry is not good versus evil – it is debauched versus depraved.

In theory, torture is the kind of issue that religion exists to confront rather than promulgate, man’s inhumanity to man being a recurring gripe among theologians. Scriptural scholars will aver that the Sermon on the Mount contains relatively few positive references to barbecuing thy tethered foe. Alas, the clerics of America are so busy combating simulated immorality on television that they have no time left to oppose the real thing.

The Bush administration has provided an abundance of actual villainy that merits condemnation. Using electronic rib-spreaders to collapse human chests may seem like reasonable conduct to Nazis or Klingons, but Americans really should adhere to a higher standard of conduct, and when doing so we must not congratulate ourselves for lacking malevolence. Absence of malice is not something about which civilized people feel compelled to gloat.

Terrorist degenerates represent a real threat to the United States, but the more imminent danger is posed by conservative degenerates who believe that vanquishing bin Laden requires emulating him. When Joe Lieberman insisted that the abominations perpetrated by Americans at Abu Ghraib did not require an apology because the other side never apologized for 9/11, he was expressing the right wing fondness for embracing the lowest ethical denominator. Left to their own designs, Republicans and their fellow travelers would have America oppose al Qaida by becoming just like al Qaida.

Tragically, conservatives have been left to their own designs. Long ago, Democrats excoriated Richard Nixon about the unplanned atrocity at My Lai. Now, George W. Bush routinely commits premeditated atrocities while the opposition party cowers. The issue of torture is one on which liberal leaders should be pressured to take a confrontational stand.

It is not such an intrepid stand: Democratic politicians should simply say that torture is intolerable and therefore they will not tolerate it. On the bravery scale of one to ten (one being Alan Colmes, ten being Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) that stance rates about a two. Since the Democrats aren’t winning anyway, they might as well take the plunge and belatedly feign decency. Acting moral might even yield political dividends. Being gutless certainly hasn’t.

And if after hearing a vigorous debate the American people opt to support the Republican policy of behaving as marauders, so be it. The United States is a struggling experiment in democracy, not a utopian paradise populated by moral titans. All that people of good will can do is make a sincere effort to stop the insanity.

Meanwhile, people of bad will are continuing to torture humans while brandishing Old Glory. This macabre version of patriotism is an approach that conservatives apparently believe honors the Founding Fathers’ original intent. The right wing is errant yet again, but being delusional is a way of life for these guys.

When Coulter recently received a standing ovation from the Conservative Political Action Committee, it reaffirmed that those who attended – Bush administration big shots, congressional leaders, media elitists, and right wing activists – enthusiastically embrace her moonstruck worldview. Like her, they consider liberals to be enemies of the state. Like her, they believe that it is virtuous to torture enemies of the state.

Liberal opposition to torture is therefore not entirely altruistic. The great unspoken question involves chronology rather than morality: given that conservatives believe torture is justified abroad, when will they institutionalize its use at home? Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has already endorsed the constitutionality of executing innocent people to eliminate time-consuming appeals that are preventing the judiciary from functioning smoothly. How great a leap is it to endorse the constitutionality of torturing American dissidents whom right wingers perceive are preventing society from functioning smoothly? Is it a leap at all?

Thus far, foreign nationals are the enemies who have been systematically tortured by conservatives, but it would be recklessly naïve to assume that Republican depravity honors the water’s edge. Those liberals who continue to inhale the intoxicant of bipartisanship had best sober up because Guantanamo beckons.

[For more information on the lesser known George Bush, see The Real George Bush.]


[1] “‘We were terrible to animals,’ recalled [Bush childhood friend] Mr. Throckmorton, laughing. A dip behind the Bush home turned into a small lake after a good rain, and thousands of frogs would come out.  ‘Everybody would get BB guns and shoot them,’ [Bush buddy Terry] Throckmorton said. ‘Or we'd put firecrackers in the frogs and throw them and blow them up.’”
— The New York Times, May 21, 2000 (archived at MakeThemAccountable.com)

[2] “Even though George W. Bush is president, Neil Bush can still see in him the 16-year-old who gave him and his younger brother 10 seconds to start running down the hall before firing BB pellets at them.” — Utah County Daily Herald, March 2, 2002 (archived at MakeThemAccountable.com)

[3] “Bush was quoted in the New York Times defending the branding of fraternity pledges with a hot coat hanger, saying the resulting wounds resembled ‘only a cigarette burn.’” – Washington Post, July 27, 1999
 

[4] “George [Bush] tells [conservative commentator Tucker] Carlson that he watched the Larry King interview with [condemned murderess Karla Faye] Tucker while she was on death row. Bush says, ‘(King) asked her real difficult questions like, “What would you say to Governor Bush?”’ ‘What was her answer?" Carlson asks. Bush ‘whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation....Please...don't kill me,’ Bush says, pretending to be Karla Baye [sic] Tucker. ‘I must (have) looked shocked,’ Carlson writes, ‘ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel, even for someone as militantly anticrime as Bush--because he immediately stops smirking.’” — Jerry Politex, August 15, 1999

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