After The Knee-Jerk Response

Massie opines:

I tend to take the view that a panicked reaction in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 is one thing (and in fact entirely reasonable) but actions taken months and years after it quite another and it is distressing how many people and pundits on the American right fail to understand that Guantanamo is, for many people, a more grievous stain than anything else done in the Bush years.

There is, I think, a great difficulty for some in accepting that the torture program was ramped up long after the initial scare happened, that it became Cheney's central front in the war, that the entire Gitmo/Bagram paradigm was devised to enable torture as a critical font of intelligence, and that all of it was plainly illegal - and made possible only by a truly radical understanding of a dictatorial presidency in foreign affairs. What staggers me, of course, is that this is also true after Abu Ghraib, after any claim to ignorance or self-deception was possible. And yet Abu Ghraib showed lesser forms of abuse and torture than that directly authorized by Bush and Cheney. Think about that: they had seen Abu Ghraib, determined it ws shocking, and then secretly authorized much worse.

This cannot be viewed as denial. They knew exactly what they were doing and had no compunction in doing it. Even now, they champion it, and if there is another major attack, will insist that torture be returned to the center of the American system. This is why we have to get all the facts on the table - what was done and what it revealed; and this is why, in the end, these people must be prosecuted.

Then there is a natural resistance, especially on the neocon right, to question the benevolence of America's actions. It is as if neoconservatism came to believe that American exceptionalism also means that America, by virtue of its unique virtue, is uniquely empowered to commit evil and somehow thereby render it good. This is how religious fundamentalism in Bush's mind came to demand the use and routinization of an absolute evil. But for the others, it is just evil. Consciously pursued.