It was, by all reports, the most heinous terrorist act in history. A ruthless gang of religious extremists, driven by an insatiable hatred for Western civilization, killed multitudes of innocent people in a surprise attack that struck without warning, without mercy. The perpetrators – who posed as ordinary citizens, members of a law-abiding ethnic minority going about their daily business – took advantage of the burgeoning global economy to move easily across borders as they brought their vast conspiracy to its poisonous fruition.He goes on to condemn the use of torture, to cite Amnesty International reports, to condemn military and civilian judges who won't exclude torture-extracted testimony and evidence. [via]
But Western leaders, though they did sleep, finally roused themselves to action. One by one, terrorist operatives fell into their hands. In the face of such an unprecedented threat, the "gloves came off": captives were subjected to strenuous interrogation as officials worked feverishly to forestall any further attacks. Soon the hard evidence of guilt emerged: the words of the conspirators themselves, set down in black and white, confessing all, in copious detail, irrefutable.
That's how 14th-century Europe "learned" that the Black Death – the rat-borne plague that killed 25 million people across the continent in just four years – had been "caused" by the Jews. Vague rumor and ancient prejudice were "confirmed" by evidence extracted from captured Jews who had been "put to the question" – the medieval spin-word for "torture." The story that emerged was full of concrete detail, like a pre-war New York Times report on Saddam Hussein's WMD: names of the terrorist leaders, the elaborate methods used to poison wells, specific locations, the composition of the various toxins, etc.
Armed with such official reports – earnestly delivered by the Colin Powells of the day, trusted officials oozing gravitas and sincerity – Europe embarked on a frenzy of pogroms. In city after city, country after country, the Jews were rounded up, burned alive, beheaded, beaten to death, slaughtered in every way imaginable, man, woman and child. All of it justified in the name of security – and all of it based on lies, on desperate nightmares wrung from innocent people tormented into madness. The plague pogroms marked a watershed in European anti-Semitism, notes author John Kelly in his sweeping history, The Great Mortality: a new element of outright eliminationism entered into the traditional religious disputes and cultural frictions. The seeds of the Holocaust were sown by the inhumanity of sanctioned torture.
Who knows what seeds of future horror are being sown this very day in the vast, sprawling hive of torture that George W. Bush and his chief minions, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, have spread across the planet?
As Tim Burke says
What’s happening now, if you read the emergent structures of argument within the blogging world pretty widely, is that the realist parasite within neoconservatism has pretty much burst through the chest of its host and is grinning with sharp alien teeth at onlookers.I wish I could get away with lines like that! He continues later:
about the worst possible combination of policy frameworks for advancing any coherent objectives is a genuinely idealistic neoconservative mask over a brutalist face. That combination leaves behind it broken and bitter local elites who actually trusted in the idealism and put their lives and futures at stake on its behalf, it serves as a license to brutalism everywhere, it feeds the ideological credibility of radical Islamism.Adam Kotsko's got a visual representation of the 9/11-Christian Right-Nationalist-Republican nexus which is not to be missed, either. In case the above was too subtle. Mr. Kotsko and I are having an interesting discussion of humor, satire and resonances in the comments section.