Friday, June 24, 2005

It's time for the real apology

On Tuesday, I posted a lengthy piece (which I cross-posted on both my Reader Blog and the 2006 Elections Table at TPM Cafe -- see here) defending Dick Durbin and arguing that he needn't have apologized for stating the obvious: that the abuse of some prisoners in American detention facilities like Gitmo resembles similar (but, on the whole, much worse) abuse inflicted by the most grotesque tyrannies of the last century. The purpose of this post is different, however:

WHAT I'M CALLING FOR HERE IS FOR THOSE WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT ABUSE -- THE ENABLERS OF TORTURE -- TO APOLOGIZE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE (AND TO THE REST OF THE WORLD THAT LOOKS TO AMERICA FOR GUIDANCE AND INSPIRATION) FOR DEEPLY TARNISHING AMERICA'S IMAGE AND FOR DEGRADING THE VERY IDEA OF AMERICA AS A NATION COMMITTED TO LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.

I won't get into the details of my defence of Senator Durbin. Suffice it to say here that he was right to suggest that when you hear about a man chained to the floor in the fetal position with no food or water, wallowing in his own urine and feces, in extreme heat, you don't think of America. You think of far worse perpetrators of torture. And that list includes Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia and Pol Pot's Cambodia. But, no, it is America, at least the America of Gitmo. Note that Durbin didn't say that Gitmo is a gulag or a concentration camp, nor did he say that there is any moral equivalency between America and the genocidal totalitarian regimes of the last century. That's what the right would like everyone to believe -- but, of course, the right is lying and misreading and spinning in order to avoid a serious discussion about the real issue.

And that real issue is the torture itself. As one of the commenters to my post at TPM Cafe put it, "talking about the torture isn't the problem, the torture is the problem". Exactly. It's time for America's leaders, those at the top who enabled torture under America's watch, to apologize. Their rhetoric may speak to America's highest ideals, but at a time when wars are being fought and lives are being lost, they have brought America down into the gutter.

No one is saying that America is on par with Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia -- at least no one sensible -- but that doesn't mean that America is beyond reproach, not least when its leaders (and I'm talking to you Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Gonzales) have so sullied its lofty ideals and hampered the very noble goal of spreading liberty and democracy around the world.

It's time for some accountability. It's time for those in power to take some responsibility. And it's time for an apology.

(Not that I'm expecting one. Not from this crowd.)

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