Friday, April 17, 2009

Monsters of the Deep

If that the heavens do not their visible spirits
Send quickly down to tame these vile offences,
It will come,
Humanity must perforce prey on itself,
Like monsters of the deep.

An interesting drama is playing out in the press. Like the abortion issue, this one is so packed with emotion that the apologists for both sides remain far apart. One side argues that extreme measures are necessary in other to provide for security. The other side argues that extreme measures are immoral and (if that's not enough) ineffective.

One side, on the defensive at being considered immoral, counters that the other side is naive. Extreme measures are necessary, they say, and, by the way, not extreme. They demonstrate this by making jokes about the nature of waterboarding and other tactics. You can read the formerly-secret memos online and decide for yourself.

The other side wants to prosecute Bush and others as criminals, guilty of war crimes. Obama has indicated now that he does not intend to pursue legal action, though he has formally discontinued the torture policy. (I should answer the phone when he calls, but yesterday I cleaned the fish pond filter and made a huge mess.)

The argument for prosecution is compelling but academic considering the political reality: many people don't mind the idea of torture as long as people are being tortured, while of course no one supports the torture of a dog or cat. I understand the counter argument--that some people deserve it while animals never do--but I don't agree with it. Politically, it would be impossible to send Bush or Cheney to jail over this. (Sigh)

Ask me what I would do to protect my wife or even my dog, and I am afraid to think of it. We are hard-wired to defend ourselves and our loved ones. But there seems to be a consensus, from the people who know about these things, that once a person is captured the use of torture accomplishes nothing except to satify the hard-wired part of our brains, the same part that, in the not too distant past, compelled people to watch prisoners torn apart by horses or have their guts pulled out with a steel hook. Once a person is captured, we protect them from the mob (see Gunsmoke, every other episode) no matter what they have done.

On a lighter side, I may have to clean out my fish pond more thoroughly. The flow of water is getting interrupted somehow. At least this is something I can fix and make better.

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