Reagan, Bush and Torture

A reader writes:

I sometimes wonder what Reagan would have to say about where our country has careened since 9/11.  We openly debate torture as a policy, allow unprecedented access to personal information, and tolerate secret prisons devoid of oversight. I think Reagan would have led us very differently through this darkness. He once said, "Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have."

It was the first weapon Bush threw away after the spectacular attacks shocked us into a new understanding of the world.

That was our leader's decision, and we went along.  But you have to really wonder, as a people, are we truly willing to exchange our moral courage for the visceral temptations of torture, in order to hopefully prevent some future calamity?  Would a chance of saving ten people be worth giving up our values? How about a hundred, or a thousand, or ten thousand, or even a million?

Over the years, we sacrificed no less than 1.3 million men and women defending our principles.  Seems to me, we owe it to them to have far more steadfastness in the face of fear. If I had been one of the 3,000 contemplating my death on 9/11, the last thing I would have wanted was to believe the real America would die with me that day.

Bush and Reagan are similar in far fewer ways than Bush would like us to believe.  But true enough, each were driven by their core beliefs. Unusually for an old-line protestant, Reagan believed that man was basically good inside.  He said: "I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph.  And there's purpose and worth to each and every life."  Bush on the other had, as an evangelical fundamentalist, believes the heart of every man is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked."  He believes the world is spiraling down toward a total darkness which will be ended only by the second coming of Jesus.   It is what I grew up believing, and it limits, greatly, the faith you place in the America people.

That kind of apocalyptic vision makes it nearly impossible to believe in a people who simply won't indulge in evil for the sake of some greater purpose.  Bush believes any good that America achieves is ultimately going to be snuffed out by the greater power of evil.  He doesn't believe in anything like Reagan's shinning city on a hill; for him, Reagan's America is just a pause on the road to Armageddon.

Reagan said when he took office he was amazed to discover the number of people who accepted the idea that nuclear war with the Soviet Union was just a matter of time.  That sort of fatalism is at the very core of Bush and his inner-circle of doom. He simply can't lead us out of fear and danger because he believes that no such place could ever exist.