Tuesday, September 19, 2006

You don’t read Miranda rights to barbarians


George Allen (R-Macaca) thinks that asking if one of his grandparents was Jewish is an “aspersion.”

Paul Krugman, in an article behind a pay barrier, and therefore absolutely impossible to find online, says that the reason the Bush admin is determined to torture people is to show that it can, to eliminate all limits on presidential power. Torture is especially suited to demonstrate this “precisely because it’s a violation of both law and tradition.” I’d like to expand on that a little. It’s not just about expanding presidential power, it’s about altering the basis of that power and delegitimizing certain ways of talking about power. They don’t just wish to violate law and tradition, but to sideline them altogether, to treat them as quaint relics of the past, irrelevant in today’s world. Instead, the sole measure is to be what “works.” And somehow, the more violent and savage something is, the more these self-styled realists assume it must work.

Here’s how the Manchester Union-Leader put it Saturday, in an attack on John McCain for being soft on terrorism: “This is a new kind of war waged by a ruthless, extremist enemy that cares nothing for Geneva Convention niceties. ... You don’t read Miranda rights to barbarians or worry about ‘what the world thinks’ when you are fighting an enemy that is out to destroy you.” Considering they claim to be talking about a new kind of war, they’re spouting some very old, very familiar crap. I don’t think there’s been a war in history where it wasn’t said of the other side, “The only thing they understand is force” and “they don’t value life the way we do.”

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