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O'Rourke (The View From the Couch): Torture II

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The high road and the low road are meeting at many intersections these days. It's the nature of the new media; things bubble up and trickle down and, voila, there it is, surfacing in the public realm. Torture is not going away and a lot of high-minded drivel is being spent on its costs and benefits. But a number of fresh motives have been raised, the most interesting of which is the gang in the Bush White House wanted "evidence" of ties to 9/11 and Iraq. But, the one motive that seems most available doesn't get much ink: vengeance. It's been speculated before that the decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan was fueled by vengeance for Pearl Harbor; another thought was that we (Truman et al) wouldn't have dropped the bomb on Europeans, but the Japanese were foreign enough to do so, the racism factor. Well, it does seem small change to rough up whatever Al Qaida sympathizers we came upon after 9/11. If there was anti-Muslim activity and fervor in the States, what would you expect would be directed at the "detainees" who got thrown into Gtimo?

Back when Abu Ghraib was in the news, in 2004, I wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times that only the so-called "bad apples" would get punished. The policy setters would walk. As they have. The only two officers who suffered anything were Janis Karpinski, who was demoted to a Colonel and retired. She ran the place. And a Colonel Pappas, who headed the military intelligence end at Abu Ghraib, was "relieved of duty" and fined. Also, in 2004, some Blackwater mercenaries were killed, dismembered, hung from a bridge in Fallujah, so the thought of "harsh" interrogations didn't seem so odd to those in the military. But, now, on the home front, it's weird to watch the right wing become so exercised over the release of the torture memos. Charles Krauthammer, of the Addams Family school of television, and Fox News was in high dungeon the other day, disclaiming about the "retrospective inquisition" that the left was trying to bring down on the head of the Bushies because of the memos. I suppose it was retrospective, since the Republicans had their inquisition of Bill Clinton after they took control of Congress in 1994. I recall a few years ago Rumsfeld defending harsh techniques by saying (actually writing) that he stood all day at a desk (some sort of back problem) and so standing for hours on end couldn't be a harsh punishment.

Torture, for these folks, is a kind of wife beating — for those who think it's necessary. But given the unhappy torture war inflicts on one and all, and mainly civilians, noncombatants, it doesn't seem so...end of the world. At least Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush II didn't drop any nuclear weapons on Iraq, even though they gave it some thought. Those would be bunker buster plus. So they showed some restraint. What they didn't show was much intelligence. And they didn't have much regard for American "values", except they all thought they knew exactly what those values were. They were real-eye-for-an-eye guys.

What, though, is the opposite of torture? That would be what the Secretary of the Treasury Geithner does to the financial industry. It was nice of the New York Times today to spell things out, finally, show what many already knew about Tim. What was a little non-payment of taxes to stand between him and his fans? Not much, obviously. Every once in a while, one can wonder darkly which is worse for the health of the state, torture, or some untorture of the sort that Timothy Geithner dispenses to his friends.

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