About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
The so-called Bush legacy
But I digress. Back to the New York Times and Bush’s legacy. Steven Lee Myers wrote a piece for the NYT about the fact that W. is going to veto a bill that passed the House of Representatives. The bill would hold our so-called intelligence agencies (the same ones that didn’t think their own pre-9/11 memo entitled “Bin Ladin determined to strike inside the US” was that important) to the same standards of interrogation of prisoners as the military and the police. In other words, the House bill says that things like water boarding are naughty and shouldn’t be done, and that if the FBI doesn’t do them, neither should the CIA.
Seems pretty mild to me, but Bushy boy will veto it nonetheless (and “straight talker” McCain, who has publicly said that water boarding is torture and is illegal, decided to do a 180 and back his former nemesis because he is desperate to appease the obscenely far right I referred to above). The Times article frames this as Bush’s continuous effort to “fight for strong executive power,” just like any other administration has done before this one (according to the Times).
Now, Bush may certainly be taken to task for seeking even more executive power than Presidents have had before him, turning this country into a de facto monarchy if he keeps succeeding. But the immediate and obvious point for which he should be taken to task is his strong endorsement of torture under the flimsy excuse that we are in the middle of a war (we are not: terrorism is a police matter, not a military one, as the Europeans understood long ago). Torture is morally wrong, even when effective (and there is plenty of evidence that it isn’t effective, and this evidence is provided by the military and the FBI, not the communist party).
To insist, as Bush does, that we should have available “all the tools we need” is a good old fashioned Machiavelli-style argument that the end justifies the means, and the Times ought to have highlighted. We keep going down that road and we lose any remaining moral high ground we may have left, essentially conceding the point to the terrorists, who would have succeeded into turning us into a mirror image of themselves. The Bush administration has gotten us already far enough down that dangerous road, which is why we don’t need the “straight talker” to continue this nefariousness for another four years.
But the New York Times, while mentioning the torture issue (how could they not?), focused the article on the scope of Presidential power, making it sound like a standard political tussle between two branches of government, thereby shifting the attention of the reader away from the naked fact that our esteemed President would -- under different and more sane circumstances -- be denounced as a war criminal first (for his conduct during the actual war in Iraq), and as a sadist leader second. But that would be too much to write for a moderately conservative paper like the Times.