Cognitive dissonance and logical contradiction are trusty indicators of inferior thought processes. It is not consistency that is the hobgoblin of small minds, after all, but ”a foolish consistency.” Those claiming to possess large and superior minds should therefore be capable of consistencies that are not foolish.
But fear exerts a strange influence over the human mind. Fearfulness is a form of foolishness, indeed, it is one of its more powerful forms, capable of overruling reason and wisdom alike. The evil, the lazy and the intellectually corrupt make habitual use of fear in their arguments, because unfortunately, the ease with which fear can be inspired makes it an irresistably tempting instrument for politicians and commentators alike.
It has been disgusting to see the enthusiasm which conservatives supposedly adhering to concepts such as limited government, human liberty and Western civilization have been cheering the Bush administration’s attempts to circumvent the limits of the Geneva Convention. Worse, they have urged it to altogether cast off the strictures of human decency and civilized behavior. They argue, with fearful lips aquiver, that if America does not assert the right of the Executive Branch to indiscriminately kill and torture, the Dread Terrorist Osama will rule from the White House as an iron-fisted Islamic dictator.
Or at least ”win,” although somehow the pro-war brigade never finds the time to define what victory for one side or the other would be. Never mind, for have we not always been at war with Osama?
If the pro-war argument often borders on lunacy, the pro-war plus pro-torture position leaps into mad irony with the ease of undocumented workers crossing the Rio Grande. On the one hand, the hawkish torturists assert, it is cowardly for Americans to refuse to fight back after having been attacked. On the other, they declare it is imperative that we abandon centuries of civilized behavior for fear that there might one day be a bomb ticking somewhere at the same time that the perpetrator of the attack fortuitously happens to be in American custody.
This is an ontological argument for torture and the rational individual will find it less convincing than its kindred case for the existence of space aliens.
Last week in WND, one could almost picture Craig Smith’s hands shaking in terror as he wrote the following: ”I would give the interrogators whatever they need to get the info we need. They are the professionals. They face these animals each day knowing that they want us dead. They know the information they hold will allow us to keep these murderers from killing more people. So let’s take the gloves off.”
I don’t know how Mr. Smith knows the Iranians or Saudi Arabians want us dead any more than the Germans, Japanese or Soviets once did, but I do know that jihad’s ability to kill large quantities of Americans is arguably lower than that possessed by any American enemy since the war of 1812.
Rusty Humphries, meanwhile, is so frightened of not only terrorism, but crime as well, that he wishes to provide even your local police with the legal right to torture: ”As for the police who have one of the kidnappers of your daughter, let’s be honest. If we do not give them the tools, leeway and permission to do whatever is necessary to prevent her brutal murder, we are a society not worth saving.”
The Apostle Paul writes that we are not given a spirit of fear, but Americans certainly appear to have acquired one from somewhere. And while there are a number of things that one might argue make our society not worth saving, a dearth of torture is seldom numbered among them.
The poverty and contemptible nature of these arguments for torture can be seen by the ease with which they can be as accurately applied to those for rape or cannibalism. After all, a terrorist might be more easily persuaded to inform on the whereabouts of the ubiquitous ”ticking-bomb” if forced to watch his prepubescent daughters raped by federal agents and a thief might be more prone to confess his theft were his fingers gnawed to the bone by a policeman with a taste for human sashimi.
Why, with a sufficiently enthusiastic application of these post-civilized principles, Americans could not only reduce terrorism and crime, but dispense with that annoying and outdated concept of trial-by-jury altogether!
The reality is that America, like most great powers, is far more likely to fall to internal rot of the sort exhibited here than to external attack. We have far more to fear from these frightened intellectual descendants of Malcolm X and the Marquis de Sade than from a planet full of terrorists.