Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Abyss

Moran:" How so, when it comes to cruel, inhuman-- What's the president's prerogative in the cruel treatment of prisoners? "

Cheney: "There's a definition that's based on prior Supreme Court decisions and prior arguments, and it has to do with the Fourth, Thirteenth, and -- three specific amendments to the Constitution. And the rule is whether or not it shocks the conscience. If it's something that shocks the conscience, the court has agreed that crosses over the line.

Now, you can get into a debate about what shocks the conscience and what is cruel and inhuman. And to some extent, I suppose, that's in the eye of the beholder. But I believe, and we think it's important to remember, that we are in a war against a group of individuals and terrorist organizations that did, in fact, slaughter 3,000 innocent Americans on 9/11, that it's important for us to be able to have effective interrogation of these people when we capture them.

And the debate is over the extent to which we are going to have legislation that restricts or limits that capability. Now, as I say, we've reached a compromise. The president signed on with the McCain amendment. We never had any problem with the McCain amendment. We had problems with trying to extend it as far as he did. But ultimately, as I say, a compromise was arrived at, and I support the compromise."

Moran: "Should American interrogators be staging mock executions [and] waterboarding prisoners? Is that cruel? "

Cheney: "I am not going to get into specifics here. You're getting into questions about sources and methods, and I don't talk about that, Terry."

Moran: "As vice president of the U.S., you can't tell the American people whether… "

Cheney: "I don't talk about-- "

Moran: …or not we would interrogate… "

Cheney: "I can say that we, in fact, are consistent with the commitments of the United States that we don't engage in torture. And we don't. "

Moran: "Are you troubled at all that more than 100 people in U.S. custody have died -- 26 of them now being investigated as criminal homicides -- people beaten to death, suffocated to death, died of hypothermia in U.S. custody? "

Cheney: "No. I won't accept your numbers, Terry. But I guess one of the things I'm concerned about is that as we get farther and farther away from 9/11, and there have been no further attacks against the U.S., there seems to be less and less concern about doing what's necessary in order to defend the country. "

Mein Gott, doesn't that sound familiar? The day the United States lost the war in Iraq was the day American soldiers tortured prisoners to death to save Iraqis from Saddam Hussein, a monstrous tyrant who tortured prisoners to death. Either way, it doesn't work, it's barbaric, and it kills people. Civilization is left behind when sadists are given ugly toys to play with and the unspoken permission to use them. Those smiling faces we saw in Abu Ghraib were the same smiling faces saw in Nazi Germany, Burma, Somalia, Soviet Russia, and Latin America. As Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." Not only did America lose the moral high ground, it jumped willingly into the abyss, and it's a long way down.