The American Exceptionalism of Torture

Salon reports this morning on a newly released memo, from a Freedom of Information request, advising the Bush administration not to torture (not using the word, of course, but rather the Orwellian enhanced interrogation techniques). It is good that the memo has been released and is now part of the historical record. It just makes me sad, though, to be reminded again that American exceptionalism mean that we hold ourselves to a much lower standard than we would hold anyone else to. I don’t blame Obama personally for letting it go. It may have been political suicide if he’d tried to prosecute people in the Bush administration for war crimes. And that is our problem. In America might makes right. That is our system and we’re pretty much stuck with it. It just makes me sad to be reminded again of the war crimes committed with impunity in my country’s name. Yes, America is exceptional, and not always in the way we like to believe.


About JP

We're two guys who met in college, in 1980. We've stayed in touch, and like to talk politics, current events, music and religion. JP is nore liberal than Sid, but not in every way. We figure that dialogue stimulates ideas, moderates perspective, and is in general friendly. These are things we need badly in these dangerous times. The blog name is taken from a song by Bruce Cockburn.
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2 Responses to The American Exceptionalism of Torture

  1. Jim says:

    I think the learning with this issue is that there is an everlasting military culture that remains regardless of who is in the oval office. It was not worth Obama’s time to make radical changes here, he simply accepted the advice of the Pentagon.

  2. JP says:

    There certainly is an everlasting military culture, and that is my point, that that is the problem. I don’t know that it really has anything to do with Obama. To suggest he could have changed it if he thought it worth his time is, I think, naive. I don’t think anyone gets to the oval office without wanting to, and following through on, clinging to all the power of the office. No president has rolled it back. That’s why expanding presidential power is dangerous. No matter how good a guy Obama is, I don’t think the fact of the office or the realities of the system could have let it play out differently. You often seem to suggest that Obama is somehow all powerful and is making all these choices from a place of almost divine wisdom. I think it is much simpler that that. I think our system is busted.

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