I have been reading some right-wing responses to the torture memos, and they are really disturbing. One common trope is to invoke the specter of 9/11 and then accuse anyone who would oppose torture as also hating America. Apparently, we blame America first and do not want to do anything to prevent another 9/11. I am reminded of this passage from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning:
During this psychological phase one observed that people with natures of a more primitive kind could not escape the influences of brutality which had surrounded them in camp life. Now, being free, they thought they could use their freedom licentiously and ruthlessly. The only thing that had changed for them was that they were now the oppressors instead of the oppressed. They became instigators, not objects, of willfull force and injustice. They justified their behavior by their own terrible experiences. This was often revealed in apparently insignificant events. A friend was walking across a field with me toward the camp when suddenly we came to a field of green crops. Automatically, I avoided it, but he drew his arm through mine and dragged me through it. I stammered something about not treading down the young crops. He became annoyed, gave me an angry look and shouted, “You don’t say! And hasn’t enough been taken from us? My wife and child have been gassed — not to mention everything else — and you would forbid me to tread on a few stalks of oats!”
Only slowly could these men be guided back to the commonplace truth that no one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them.
It would be cheap and easy to say, “I was unaware that Viktor Frankl was a self-hating Jew. I was unaware that he blamed the Jews first and wanted to coddle the Nazis.” So I am not going to bother attacking the logic of the conservative’s absurd ad hominem attacks. Their worldview is so simplistic that they cannot comprehend that a political opponent might not be a traitor.
9/11/2001 reduced them to a primitive state of being. They have thrown out their morals. As long as they can invoke 9/11, they can justify any act, no matter how cruel. Here is Manadel al-Jamadi, who was tortured to death. “Yawn,” the conservative replies. “This was just a fraternity prank.”
The trauma of 9/11 is not a rhetorical bludgeon for you to use. It is especially sickening to think that you’re using these victims’ deaths in order to justify torture and to excuse our political leaders from war crimes. I’m sure the dead would be proud. I’m sure that those dead firefighters are proud that their heroism is being used to justify slamming people into walls and then waterboarding them 183 times. It is sad that conservatives justify their sadism by defacing the memory of dead Americans. It is sad that conservatives take so much rhetorical glee and have such zest in remembering the deaths of 3000 people.
I have not forgotten 9/11. I merely choose to not use it to justify brutality, or to buttress every political idiocy I can think of.
Torture is sickening and should shock the conscience. I am unsure if those conservatives even have a conscience. You who purport to defend Western Civilization have thrown away what it means to be civilized.
War cannot excuse war crimes. I don’t care how many times you spit on the graves of dead Americans with your illogical rhetoric and vicious immorality. It will not justify torture. “No one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them.”