Voting for Brutality

More and more news is surfacing of prisoners being tortured by U.S. interrogators – in Afghanistan, throughout Iraq, at Guantanamo, of "renditions" wherein the U.S. military or the CIA flies prisoners to countries like Syria or Egypt (countries with less democracy than Iraq had under Hussein) to be tortured without Americans getting their hands dirty.

Of course, each such revelation is countered by the claim that such abuse is an aberration – a great exception to the general rule, which presumably is that prisoners are treated humanely.

But two points must be noticed. First, what we've heard so far is only what we've heard so far. We should never assume that today is the end of history. The revelations most likely are just the beginning of the scandals.

Second, those who supported going to war – against Afghanistan, against Iraq, against "terrorism" – should understand that they asked for the torturing, the renditions, the shocking brutality. He who calls for war calls for the torture of prisoners, for the killing of civilians, for the destruction of the Bill of Rights, for much bigger government, and for other atrocities. Once war begins, all these things are unavoidable. That’s why war should be considered as an option only when America is actually attacked – not when a President thinks it would be a keen idea to rearrange some other country.

Apparently, at least 100,000 Iraqis have died in this war. And at a minimum, half those who died must be civilians – men, women, and children killed by cluster bombs, missile attacks, the flattening of Fallujah, misguided attacks, misunderstandings at check points, and all the other ways that civilians inevitably die for no reason other than that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

To bring "democracy" to Iraq, how many people must die, how many prisoners must be tortured, how many freedoms must Americans give up, how much bigger must government be?

February 24, 2005