The Dark Side

December 9, 2008

I was recently asked what, out of the all the bad decisions and screw-ups of the Bush administration, I thought would have the longest lasting and most severe consequences. I was inclined to answer that it’s their neglect of the climate-change issue, however, I’m skeptical of the progress that would have been made on that issue were another administration in power (a Gore presidency being a likely exception). Instead I chose their use of torture, because that, I believe, will not only prove disastrous for the United States but also represents a radical departure from past American practices. The Bush administration, by adopting what the press has taken to calling euphemistically “enhanced interrogation practices,” which any sane person would consider torture, has humiliated the country and greatly undermined its credibility, handed a public-relations coup to our adversaries around the world, undercut our ability to criticize human rights violations, weakened moral within our military and intelligence agencies, undermined the legal cases against numerous terrorists in our custody, weakened the Constitution and the rule of law, and set a precedent for extreme and extra-legal executive power. And, most importantly, they have brutally tortured not only terrorists but innocent people in the most horrific ways, pushing people past the brink of insanity, keeping them locked up without recourse to any court of law, without counsel, and have done in the name of the United States the very actions that once set countries such as the Soviets and the Nazis apart from us.

I do not think the general public has even an inkling of what has been done, certainly not the extent of it. I think every thoughtful American should read Jane Mayer’s book The Dark Side: The Inside Story On How The War On Terror Turned Into A War On American Ideals. I did not begin reading this book in total ignorance of the administration’s activities, but I was nonetheless blown away when I saw the entire case laid out. The research that went into this book is extensive, and when all the information is pulled together it makes for a stunning case.

Read the NY Times’s review here. And get the book.


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