Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Required reading

The recent article by Mark Danner in the New York Review of Books should be required reading for all civics classes in the United States. Of course, the students should also read the ICRC report that details the torture policies followed by the United States government. This is available for downloading at the NYRoB site.

Read this, and tell me again how the United States government is superior to that of the Soviet Union or Communist China. Yes, there are differences in how the mass of citizens are treated, but the treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo does not differ appreciably from the prisoners at Lyubyanka.

As Danner notes, a series of memos from the White House of George W. Bush detail the formulation of the torture policies. At this point, however, it's unclear if we will ever be able to read these memos. According to Scott Horten's piece in The Daily Beast, Senate Republicans are threatening to obstruct key Obama appointments if the contents of these memos is made public.

Massive public pressure will be needed to force disclosure of the contents of these memos. If the administration sees that it is more politically disadvantageous to continue the cover-up, the information will be released. But I don't think anything will happen without real pressure from the public on this issue.

I'm not terribly optimistic this will happen. I remember teaching a political science class several years ago. We were discussing the torture policies of the Bush Administration. After all, people knew what was happening, even if they didn't want to talk about it. Not one of my students would criticize policies that condoned the use of torture. Not one of these bright young students, the future of our country. It was a profoundly depressing day.