Generous Orthodoxy  




Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The photo of Osama bin Laden

Thank you, Lord of heaven and earth, that we will not see the picture of Obama's corpse--at least not until it is "leaked." Thank God that the President of the United States of America will not be parading the executed man's head around the world on a pike, as the fine humanitarian writer Philip Gourevitch quite rightly described the project. For all the doubts that would-be supporters of Obama have had about him lately, for all the times he has disappointed, this decision helps to restore at least a small degree of the admiration he once inspired.

Along these same lines, how disheartening it is to see the proto-torturers leaping to the defense of their favorite techniques. Just as we were thinking we might be past this, here once again comes John Yoo, author of the deplorable Justice Department "torture memo," trumpeting George W. Bush's "tough decisions" in National Review, trying to convince us that the bin Laden action couldn't have happened without the use of "coercive methods". And here is the head of the House Homeland Security Committee on Fox News (where else?), claiming that the success of the hunt for bin Laden was owing to waterboarding. The enthusiasm for torture among its proponents makes one feel all the more suspicious about the dangers of stirring up the beast inside us all (see previous post).

No matter what one might think of the liberal leanings of The New York Times, the analytic articles on such issues tend to be scrupulously balanced. A case in point is today's article about the issue of torture in the bin Laden action:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/04/us/politics/04torture.html?scp=1&sq=debate%20revived&st=cse

And along these lines, last year at the American Academy in Rome I met the writer Mark Danner, well-known opponent of torture. He told us that in polls to determine attitudes to torture, the US ranked fairly high in approval, whereas countries like Egypt and Syria ranked much lower. Why is that? Mr. Danner and all of us listening to him agreed that it was because Egyptians and Syrians were likely to know someone who had actually been tortured. Americans can scarcely imagine themselves, or members of their families, being victims of torture. In the typical American view, only "bad guys" can be victims. For a thorough, compelling description of psychotherapists who treat the innocent victims of very recent torture, some of it at the hands of American soldiers, see this link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/03/health/03torture.html?_r=1&scp=6&sq=torture&st=cse