The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Lesson Unlearned

A lesson unlearned by the Bush Administration:
Most of the evidence was gossip: nearly all the confessions were made in answer to leading questions and under torture. Judges who examine in that way will infallibly find confirmation of whatever theory the prosecution was holding before the trial began.
--C.S. Lewis, on the witchcraft trials, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (1954) at 5.

Such age-old wisdom is not for the Bush-Cheney regime, as witness this summary of Jane Mayer's new book The Dark Side:
But it was only the pictures that made Abu Ghraib an aberration. The tactics the president denounced were precisely those he had authorized and encouraged in the growing network of secret prisons around the world. The detainees in these scattered sites — many of them innocent — have been held for months and years without charges, without lawyers, without notification to their families and often without respite from torture for weeks and months at a time. The Bush administration’s response to the Abu Ghraib scandal was not to stop the behavior, but to try to hide it more effectively.

No one knows how many people were rounded up and spirited away into these secret locations, although the number is very likely in the thousands. No one knows either how many detainees have died once in custody. Nor is there any solid information about the many detainees who have been the victims of what the United States government calls “extraordinary rendition,” the handing over of detainees to other governments, mostly in the Middle East, whose secret police have no qualms about torturing their prisoners and face no legal consequences for doing so.

We have traded honor, law, and our tradition, and received nothing--quite literally, nothing--in return. Lewis' famous character, Screwtape, would be so proud; he said that the ultimate goal of the Devil was "to get the man's soul and give him nothing in return." The Screwtape Letters (1943) at 49-50.

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