Sunday, December 11, 2005
Our eminent colleague Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque asks us to imagine Messrs. Roberts or Alito admonishing Mr. Bush in the manner of their counterparts in the House of Lords, who on Friday forbade the use in British courts of testimony extracted by torture:
Lord BinghamOur eloquent colleague Arthur Silber adds his own voice to those of the Law Lords in an excellent series of postings on torture. In the excerpt below he argues that it is well past time to call Mr. Bush's policies what they are -- that is, evil -- and offers a simple test for identifying the monsters among us:
"The English common law has regarded torture and its fruits with abhorrence for over 500 years ... I am startled, even a little dismayed, at the suggestion (and the acceptance by the court of appeal majority) that this deeply-rooted tradition and an international obligation solemnly and explicitly undertaken can be overridden ... The issue is one of constitutional principle, whether evidence obtained by torturing another human being may lawfully be admitted against a party to proceedings in a British court ... To that question I would give a very clear negative answer."
"Torture is not acceptable. This is a bedrock moral principle in this country. For centuries the common law has set its face against torture ... Torture attracts universal condemnation. No civilised society condones its use. Unhappily, condemnatory words are not always matched by conduct."
"Torture is one of most evil practices known to man. Once torture has become acclimatised in a legal system it spreads like an infectious disease, hardening and brutalising those who have become accustomed to its use ... Views as to where the line is to be drawn may differ sharply from state to state. This can be seen from the list of practices authorised for use in Guantánamo Bay by the US authorities, some of which would shock the conscience if they were ever to be authorised for use in our own country.
"The revulsion against torture is so deeply ingrained in our law that, in my view, a court could receive statements obtained by its use only where this was authorised by express words, or perhaps the plainest possible implication, in a statute. Here, there are no express words and the provisions approved by parliament do not go so far as to show that the officious bystander who asked whether Siac could rely on a statement obtained by torture would have been testily suppressed with an 'Oh, of course!' from the legislature. I therefore hold that Siac should not take account of statements obtained by torture."
"Torture is an unqualified evil. It can never be justified. Rather it must always be punished."
But if we continue much farther on this path, that day too will come: the day when we announce our barbarity and inhumanity proudly to the world, and no longer engage in the pretense of making apologies or excuses for it. In fact, and as we shall see in the concluding part of this essay, some of the administration's most fervent defenders already do this. The final excuse they employ is the most pathetic one of all: we must act like monsters, they say, because our enemies have made us do it. These repellent, vile frauds, who trumpet their own strength of character and "manliness" because they enthusiastically embrace what ought to repel any person who is remotely civilized to any degree at all, are revealed by their own words to be the most contemptible of weaklings: they are helpless to resist evil because the enemies they identify as the essence of evil compel them to do so . . . .
Barbarism and sadism are now the official policy of our government. And the defenders of that policy still tell the world that we, and only we, can ensure that the values of civilization are transmitted to the future. They seek to destroy the unique value of human life, and they have rendered themselves incapable of understanding the nature of the destruction upon which they have embarked.
Can there ever be forgiveness for choosing a course that is evil to this extent? History will make the final judgment. But I am entirely confident that if humanity does survive this catastrophe, as it has miraculously managed to survive other catastrophes of the past, its judgment will be simple, final and absolute: No. We do not forgive the monsters of the past -- and we should not forgive the monsters of our own time.
And if you support these policies of the administration to any extent at all, you are one of them.