Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Being "pro-American" by being pro-torture

I'm seeing an ugly trend among European commentators taking a "pro-American" position on the CIA torture report.

What better example of obnoxious trends could we hope for than an installment from alleged philosopher and professional twit Bernard-Henri Lévy? In Thank You, America Huffington Post 12/19/2014, the always-irritating Frenchman writes:

The good news ... is that this same democracy [the USA] has once again demonstrated its extraordinary vitality, its capacity to pull itself together, to confront its crimes, and, in criticizing itself, to rediscover its founding values. Oh, one can expound on the puritanism of an America obsessed with any stain that might tarnish its pastoral vision of itself (Philip Roth). Hard heads can always be found to mock the nostalgia for innocence that is so characteristic of this country (Tocqueville) and whose consequences are often ridiculous or absurd. Be that as it may, there was something beautiful in the spectacle offered to the world by Senator Dianne Feinstein as she read, in a voice full of with emotion, the summary of 500 pages that are so damning for her country. President Obama struck the right tone in the difficult task of upholding his responsibilities as commander in chief, charged with safeguarding the security of his fellow citizens, while ceding no ground on the principles that make up the nation's credo -- principles that are, in the last analysis, America's best weapon against barbarism. The Republicans, for their part, found a voice worthy of their party's great historical consciences in the person of Senator John McCain, who thundered, from the high ground of his own experience as a prisoner of war and victim of torture, that torture is not only sordid but ineffective. America is never so great as in such moments of crisis, doubt, and upset. It is never so strong as when it indulges its taste for the truth. As a citizen of a country that had to confront a similar situation during and after its war in Algeria, a country that spent not years but decades dismantling an official lie and acknowledging the extent of the crimes committed in France's name, I can only salute, with deep humility, the example given here. [my emphasis]
Did President Obama say he was going to prosecute the torture perpetrators? Well, no.

Did the bold Maverick McCain demand that government prosecute the torture perpetrators? During the Cheney-Bush Administration, did he demand impeachment proceedings against officials implicated in the torture crimes? Well, no. And, no.

The torture report shows how wonderful America is? "The good news, by contrast, is that this same democracy has once again demonstrated its extraordinary vitality, its capacity to pull itself together, to confront its crimes, and, in criticizing itself, to rediscover its founding values." Except that most of the torture perpetrators are not being prosecuted under Obama's "look forward, not backward" excuse. There have been a few prosecutions of lower-level perps like some of the Abu Ghuraib prison guards. Allen West, now a rightwing hero, also was disciplined over a torture incident in Iraq. But publishing part of an investigative report on horrible crimes that the government has no intention to prosecute isn't really a very impressive way to demonstrate a democracy's "extraordinary vitality." Did I mention that Bernard-Henri Lévy is a professional twit?

When it comes to being a twit, Bernard-Henri Lévy is hard to top. But Josef Joffe gushes over the virtue of America as evidenced by publishing the torture report while holding the torture perpetrators harmless in the same vein in Der Teufelspakt Die Zeit 17.12.2014.

Georg Hoffmann-Ostenhof makes his own contribution to this reprehensible brand of "pro-Americanism" in Der Fluch der Folter Profil 13.12.2014. He cheefully labels critics of American torture crimes "die notorischen Feinde Amerikas, die rechten und linken Anti-Liberalen aller Länder, die islamischen Fundis und die heimlichen und unheimlichen Putin-Anhänger" ("the notorious enemies of America, the right and left anti-liberals of all countries, the Islamist fundamentalists and secret and open Putin sympathizers").

Oh, just bite me, Herr Georg. (Oder, lech mich doch, auf Deutsch.) The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, the Soviet Union has long since disappeared. I know those Cold War clichees are hard to get over, especially since you're obviously so fond of them. But it's time to try to get your head within at least 10 years or so of the present.

So Bernard-Henri Lévy and all the rest of the "pro-American" commentators who surely know very well they are supporting torture with this kind of commentary, despite any of their disclaimers to the contrary, are only being "pro-American" if being pro-torture is also being pro-American, then this counts as pro-American.

Otherwise, it's just more support for immunity for torture perpetrators.

It's defending -torture, in other words. And it's disgusting.

Really, people? Bernard-Henri Lévy, Josef Joffe, Georg Hoffmann-Ostenhof? Your so intent on showing how "pro-American" you are that you will in practice defend even torture if practiced by Americans? The whole lot of you should be ashamed of yourselves.

At least you can take comfort in one thing: Dick Cheney agrees with you that to be pro-American is to be pro-torture. If you enjoy the company of war criminals and people who give no perceptible evidence of possessing a conscience, you're where you want to be.

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