If the Republicans wanted to win at the coming elections - and, perhaps even more important, not to confirm every commonplace of anti-American propaganda throughout the world - they should have sent Cheney (and perhaps Rumsfeld) on a diplomatic mission to Antarctica for the last couple of months. His outburst about pretend drowning being a legitimate kind of interrogation has been manna to al-Jazeera, MoveOn.org, the Daily Kos, and the Brutish Broadcasting Creeperation. But what was worse was the number of would-be reasonable Republican columnists, people who claim to be the real mainstream of American society - and, increasingly, are - who, instead of suggesting that he should suffer from a few weeks of laringytis or that he should retire to the Rockies to fish and shoot deer, have lined up to support him, even claiming that pretend drowning is not torture. All of it, mind you, said with the earnest, moralizing tone with which they (rightly) denounce the New Jerk Dimes' assaults on American security and the crass exploitation of Mark Foley's flirts with young adults by the party of gay rights. Be serious: do you imagine that if such... call them procedures... were used by any American cop, against the worst, most murderous, and most provenly guilty, of gang members - the case against the gang member would not collapse in court, and the cop and his accomplices would not go to jail, among the execrations and disgust of all decent Americans? Have you morons learned nothing from the Abu Ghraib calamity? The West is held to a higher standard of behaviour than the stateless gangs of murderous thugs who hate it; and rightly so, for these are the standards we chose for ourselves. To imagine that American citizens are protected from treatment that is acceptable even for criminals of other countries is to make a nonsense of the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence. This should not even need saying; it should be as obvious as the sun in the sky. But evidently Cheney and a number of Republicans are blind to self-evidence.
A curse on the party spirit, and a plague on both your houses. The Foley affair showed the Democrats eager to throw overboard every bit of principle they had ever claimed with respect to gay rights, merely in order to show a little-known Republican in a bad light; and the water-torture affair now shows hordes of Republicans willing to throw overboard the very historical principles they claim to live by, the principles upon which the Republic was founded, just in order to support a morally tone-deaf old man. I can see the need of things like Guantanamo, special courts, and even limitations on published evidence, because this security crisis - it is hard to call it a war, though it has some of the features of one - is something completely new in the last few centuries of history: militarized banditry with a politico-religious justification, yet leaderless and stateless, with no state to hold responsible (though many are accomplices) for its soldiers' behaviour, no common uniform, organization, or aims, supported by an anarchic network of mosques, self-proclaimed leaders, Islamic financiers, and deviant secret services. In these circumstances, to hold the enemy to every word of the Geneva Conventions, which none of them ever signed, which none of them regard except with derision, and which never envisaged worldwide banditry of their kind is, whatever the US Supreme Court may happen to think, total insanity. But there is something much more important than the Geneva Conventions, which, after all, only codify the transient and ever-changing laws of war; and that is our own collective conscience, the values in whose name we have built our societies, the values in whose name our fathers fought and died against kings and tyrants. And if Dick Cheney thinks that these grey old rules may carelessly be broken for the delusion of advantage against a fanatical enemy, then he is almost as revolutionary and as destructive as that enemy; and to that extent, he has to be rejected by the sane majority of both parties.