Lying to ourselves

The delusion of our own integrity has worn thin. Linked here is an NYT editorial, The Good Germans Among Us, detailing the quilt of lies and deception that we have sewn to keep ourselves in “the right” while portraying others (Iraqis, Burmese, Chinese, Afghan …) as brutal, terrorists and wrong. While the tale is focussed on the US and the self-serving policies in Iraq, we are all benefiting from the charade. The first lines, which outline the dirty picture, are here:

“BUSH lies” doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves.

Ten days ago The Times unearthed yet another round of secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture. President Bush gave his standard response: “This government does not torture people.” Of course, it all depends on what the meaning of “torture” is. The whole point of these memos is to repeatedly recalibrate the definition so Mr. Bush can keep pleading innocent.

By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques have a grotesque provenance: “Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the ‘third degree.’ It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.”

Still, the drill remains the same. The administration gives its alibi (Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples). A few members of Congress squawk. The debate is labeled “politics.” We turn the page.

Read on here. And change the way we encourage this behaviour with our own apathy and convenient spin.

And here’s another cry for decency from the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.


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