Sunday, September 24, 2006


Many people have theories about why the Bush administration wants to legalize torture, wants to be able to treat detainees in any way they want without any legal oversight or human rights protections.

Krugman says: It is because they can.

But I think it is something else. And if the horrible thing is true, that Bush's intentions are shared by some of the United Statesans, then this will be the reason: It's a symbolic exorcism of hate and fear. I think the reason Muslims and only Muslims (so far) are to be tortured is that there is a terrible fear, a remarkable and incredible fear of Muslims that has been created by this government. Remarkable in that this government is killing Muslims at a rate of (at least) 100 to 1. I think one thing at the root of this fear (and accompanying hatred, the resentment of each and every Muslim for making these cowardly people so afraid) is simply the fact that there are a whole, whole lot of Muslims and they are different and Not Like Us. But mostly, because there are a lot of them.

To torture is to exercise power. It is an act of power. It conquers your fear. If only for a little while. It is interesting that people comment about the Nazi hatred of the Jews but less about the Nazi fear of the Jews. The Jews were seen as all-powerful, as controlling all political events, even the military response to Nazi aggression. Each bomb dropped on Germany was seen--by the most crazy people in the Nazi party, not the opportunists probably--as a Jewish bomb. What is horrific about the Holocaust is not just that so many millions were killed but what was done in addition to the killing--the torture. It was if the Germans had to reduce each Jew to powerlessness and witness this powerlessness in all its forms to expunge their fear. And death alone doesn't do that for some reason, when you are killing a person and what you fear is an abstract idea. And of course, we know that some men torture women for related reasons.

OK, now I sound like Ward Churchill. I think. I actually don't know what Ward Churchill sounds like. Anyway, I sound like some crackpot college professor. I'm also freaking myself out, making myself sick and even scaring myself thinking about these terrifying, sickening things. Also, I violated the cardinal internet rule not to make the Nazi analogy.

Except. I don't know what else to think. The thing I've never understood about the post-terrorism era IS the fear of Muslims. Muslims will obviously become scary to me if they come to believe they are direct political targets and start to fight back in the U.S. Then I suppose I'll be scared of Muslims. But overall, I don't get the overwhelming fear of terrorism that resulted from 9/11 and I don't get the overwhelming fear of Muslims. Of course, I'm not afraid of sudden death in general. I'm afraid of evil. I think the reason the Nazi analogy is so hard to resist right now is that we are seeing a new kind of evil and we don't have any way to comprehend it. There have always been the evils of greed and opportunism and indifference and exploitation--slavery, genocide--these things are not pretty. Those things are over, though, at least in their most direct forms. There is violence against women and racist violence that floats around the fringes of our society even now (affecting the middle, of course). And that has the same whiff of intentional cruelty--by private citizens-- but it is different somehow because we know that is pathological and there are laws against it and it is officially reviled. Intentional cruelty has not really been the U.S. Government's thing. Up to now.


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