I'm finding it increasingly difficult to blog about torture. The situation is so appalling, and the level of public interest seems so low.
Stories like this one do not help.
The lack of public interest–that is, almost, just as criminal as the torture itself. Bush for some bizarre reason has been given a free pass on this. Maybe it’s because the media are drinking the Kool-Aid (or too busy using the Deep Throat story to lavish praise on themselves). More likely, it’s because the “opposition” party, the Democrats, are practically absent from the discussion. E.J. Dionne has written a little on it; Sen. Biden made a splash yesterday urging a Gitmo shutdown (which is a non-starter). And the Administration–at least, if you believe it–says that all incidents of abuse are being dealth with internally.
But for an Administration supposedly so hell-bent on prevention or preemption (of terror), why do we hear nothing about what the Administration is doing to make sure this doesn’t happen again? What training do our young soldiers get? How rigorous is the supervision by higher-ranking officers? Even if it’s just lip service, at a minimum you’d hope to see some new liability-limiting sensitivity training or other risk management techniques implemented in response to the abuse of prisoners. The Administration, at best, is doing exactly what it criticized Clinton and Kerry of doing–taking a “law enforcement approach” to problem-solving without addressing the root cause.
But, alas, you’re either with us or against us. And when you’ve got the Washington Post writing editorials chastising Amnesty International, it’s pretty clear there is no “against us” group anymore.
I’ve worked a lot on this. I actually remain bizarrely convinced we’re going to stop this in the end. This isn’t to say that will happen any time soon, or that it might not get worse before it improves.
For all the lack of public interest–I’ve spoken to one of the lawyers in Rasul v. Bush who has also represented several other detainees. They couldn’t find anyone to sign on as local counsel in their case in the beginning; now they’ve got a squadron of big firm lawyers who are handling many of the cases pro bono. The judicial opinions have changed and don’t seem to be changing back.
There’s a limited amount the courts can do. But the efforts needn’t be limited to the courts. Dick Durbin cares about this stuff, and I think Harry Reid might too. Why they’re not doing more, I really can’t say, but I think they could be convinced to do more. And a large and increasing number of people, if still a minority, are genuinely horrified.
I don’t think it’s anywhere near hopeless.
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