Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

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Location: New York, United States

The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I'm hopeless, I admit

I was so intimidated by the powerful 9/11 tribute/indictment delivered by Olbermann (as detailed in the last post) that I was silenced for a week. I tried to write something that came anywhere near it but gave up in despair, although as it turned out what I wrote was more personal than political. (Maybe I will finish it and post it later.) Since then I’ve been unpleasantly riveted by the campaign being waged by the former governor of Texas (how horrible that he should share that title with the late lamented Ann Richards) to legalize torture. It’s a little like a bad accident on the freeway – it’s sick, but you have to look.

The thing that I found most offensive was the press conference, where (if the photo I saw on the front of the NY Times was from that) he stood in front of a bunch of American flags and demanded the right to torture, or else he was going to essentially stop any interrogation of prisoners. That may not be what he was saying, but it sounded that way to me. There are plenty of ways to interrogate people without breaking the law, and if he even stops those because (WAAAAAAHH!) he can’t have his way, then he is responsible for anything that happens and should be impeached for a willful refusal to protect this country even in undoubtedly lawful ways.

The great Paul Krugman says it best:

So why is the Bush administration so determined to torture people?

To show that it can.

The central drive of the Bush administration — more fundamental than any particular policy — has been the effort to eliminate all limits on the president’s power. Torture, I believe, appeals to the president and the vice president precisely because it’s a violation of both law and tradition. By making an illegal and immoral practice a key element of U.S. policy, they’re asserting their right to do whatever they claim is necessary.

And many of our politicians are willing to go along. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives is poised to vote in favor of the administration’s plan to, in effect, declare torture legal. Most Republican senators are equally willing to go along, although a few, to their credit, have stood with the Democrats in opposing the administration.

Mr. Bush would have us believe that the difference between him and those opposing him on this issue is that he’s willing to do what’s necessary to protect America, and they aren’t. But the record says otherwise.

The fact is that for all his talk of being a “war president,” Mr. Bush has been conspicuously unwilling to ask Americans to make sacrifices on behalf of the cause — even when, in the days after 9/11, the nation longed to be called to a higher purpose. His admirers looked at him and thought they saw Winston Churchill. But instead of offering us blood, toil, tears and sweat, he told us to go shopping and promised tax cuts.

Only now, five years after 9/11, has Mr. Bush finally found some things he wants us to sacrifice. And those things turn out to be our principles and our self-respect.


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