Thursday, September 29, 2005

To what should we swear alliegance as a people?

To the current administration, to partisanship, or to principles?

Ever since the Abu Ghraib scandal broke last year, Andrew Sullivan's blog has been a powerful voice advocating that those responsible not just for engaging in torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners but also for sanctioning such behavior be held to account--even when, as has recently been the case, even other bloggers who are politically opposed to the current administration have said nothing. Now, with the recent story of Captain Ian Fishback's letters to congressmen of both parties that directly accuse his superiors of leading him and his men to believe that the Geneva Convention does not apply to them, Sullivan is, again, almost the only one of the major bloggers, period, talking about these matters. In case you don't read him but want to know more about this, here is Fishback's letter to John McCain, via the Washington Post, and here are three impassioned posts (there are more besides) that are as thrilling in their outrage and compelling in their call to behave in accordance with who we say we are as a people as anything you're likely to read on the 'Nets. Sullivan's posts have the added power of being by someone who is a Republican and who supports the (stated) principles behind the war in Iraq, if not that war's actual prosecution.

Sullivan's overarching theme is mine for this post: Those principles are betrayed and have been at least since the infamous "torture memos" were approved. It is simply unconscionable that torture has become a de facto approved practice under this administration--or, indeed, that it would become so under ANY administration. For what is at stake here is no partisan advantage or some specious definition of "patriotism." What is at stake transcends politics; it is our very cultural and political (in the very broadest sense of that term) identity in the eyes of the world community--a nation of laws, one intensely interested in respect for the rights of people throughtout the world--that is crumbling as we watch and that will not be immediately rebuilt (and not with money, either) long after 2008 has passed. I do not hope we've created such a partisanized political discourse in this nation that we cannot, as a people, feel and give voice to a collective betrayal of our ideals and principles by the current administration. What we say we believe in as a nation, and our actions in accordance with those beliefs, should always be above political calculation or the desire to retain power. Always. Otherwise, those beliefs become so cheapened as to mean nothing.

Even as we worry about whether and how to pay for hurricanes Katrina and Rita and what that will do to the deficit, I fear that the moral deficit we have run up will take much longer, and will be much more difficult, to repay.

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1 comment:

jennifer said...

Excellent question! I loved this post for a myriad of reasons but primarily because this is the question that should be asked and asked and asked until you distill the issue down to what it means to be a life in this society in particular? Whose life has value? From a societal standpoint, who determines that value and in what ways? Wow. Your post is wonderful. I've missed reading your blog. I'll read more and comment more when time permits but I do thank you for maintaining this place as well as you have. It is a gift.