October 25, 2009

American Exceptionalism and Torture

Those familiar with GDAE Podcast know that recent Episodes, 18, 19 & 20, have dealt with the topic of American Exceptionalism. The notion is described in the upcoming GDAE Podcast Episode 21 as follows:

... ingrained in almost all Americans is the belief that OUR democracy, the FIRST, is genius in its creation, unsurpassable, a break with all of human history. American leadership is therefore a gift to the world, unassailable. We can do no wrong because America is a beacon of truth, justice and... well, you get the idea.

The Episode 21 segment on "Echoes of American Exceptionalism" features Thomas A. Bass on American Exceptionalism and Torture. Here's an excerpt.

Torture produces an avalanche of disinformation. The Iraq war proves this handily. The war ranks among the most significant intelligence failures in American history. Everything the United States thought it knew about Iraq before the invasion was wrong. The supposed intelligence from "Curveball" in Germany and al-Libi in Egypt was nothing but red herrings and Al Qaeda disinformation.

The United States suffers from a kind of imperial amnesia, which presumes that U.S. power -- no matter how it projects itself in the world -- is always just and right. The strutting Bush in his flight suit and snarling Cheney were also channeling the myth of the American frontier and the redemptive value of violence. In this case, one employs torture not as a necessary evil, but as a social good -- a kind of refining fire, an apocalyptic strategy for separating believers from apostates.

Torture also separates Western from non-Western people, who tend to be red-, yellow-, brown-, or black-skinned. Targets of torture are reduced to the status of "other," and racial stereotypes further reduce them to being "inferior." Torture in this case is used to confirm what skin color and race have already implied about somebody's disloyalty to Western values. The treacherous redskin in his feathered headdress has been replaced by the new symbology of keffiyehs and hihabs.

As we shake ourselves awake from this terror-filled dream, it is time to remember America's long history of torture. The country may have been founded on witch trials, but torture is illegal.

Not to mention immoral and degrades any future hope that the United States can achieve true exceptionalism.


Huffington Post, Torture ... Fifty Years of U.S. Practice, May 11, 2009, Thomas A. Bass.


1 comment:

libhom said...

The ironic aspect of the belief system aptly described in your definition of American exceptionalism is that our form of government was based largely on that of the Greeks, the Romans, and the Iroquois.