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Thursday, Feb. 3, 2005 12:38 am

What has happened to our country?

With each passing day, the Bush administration gives us new reasons to be ashamed. But nothing these people have done has damaged America as much as the torture and murder of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. With Alberto Gonzales as the attorney general of the United States, what until now has been treated as a disturbing scandal will be official state policy. The slimy architect of the American gulag will now be its overseer.

It was Gonzales, while serving as White House legal counsel, who concluded that the Geneva Conventions were “quaint” and who redefined torture as procedures that would produce pain “akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure.” Anything short of that, as far as the Bush administration is concerned, is just fine.

That includes a lot. We know that “water-boarding” has been and continues to be a favorite technique among American torturers. Prisoners are tied to a board and dunked under water until they are convinced that they will drown. We now know that some have indeed drowned. Prisoners have been attacked with dogs, beaten, and sexually abused. Prisoners have been stripped and exposed to extremes of cold and heat, forced to undergo sleep and sensory deprivation, left tied up to defecate on themselves, and held in so-called stress positions. Other prisoners have been flown to client states such as Egypt to undergo torture even more extreme than that allowed by the Bush administration. We also know that prisoners as young as 13 have been held at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and supposedly underwent the same treatment as the older inmates.

What we are talking about is the United States of America’s departure from Western civilization. Other nations have gone off the deep end, and the results have been devastating. During the Cultural Revolution, the People’s Republic of China essentially went crazy and massacred or imprisoned much of its literate population. The French had beheaded a large swath of their nation before they awoke from the vicious stupor of their revolution. Germany went from being the world’s center of learning to a nation of rabid murderers under the Nazis. Today the Christo-fascists, our homegrown brownshirts, are taking us down the same path.

It is possible to argue that there are times when the execution of certain individuals is justified. I’m not sure I agree with those arguments, but I can respect the logic. There is never a time when torture is legitimate — not for any reason. It is cowardly, morally repulsive, and counterproductive. There is now no argument at all why captured American soldiers shouldn’t be treated the same way.

If torture is a legitimate method of preventing bad events and gaining intelligence, why not torture drunken drivers, parents who smoke around their children, or any other “evildoers”? Perhaps somebody from the Department of Faith-Based Initiatives can respond to this question. I’m trying to understand what’s happened to our country.

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