"The idea that you can castigate people because they disagree about your ideas on safety. I think that's what offensive." (Jon Stewart, interviewing Mark Thiessen on Yesterday's TDS.)
Offensive as it may be. what is inconceivable to Thiessen and his ilk are that a Republican administrations ideas could be anything less than THE ideas. This is the deepest and most fundamental conceit of American conservatism. The right "knows", is convinced with every fiber of their being, that their understanding of evil and the need for violent self-defense is far superior to that of liberals. I remember the arguments in favor of the Iraq war, how many of them were no more than general arguments against pacifism, and the attitude was clear. 'We and only we are the adults. We are the only ones who understand the need for war, and we are the only ones who know when it is necessary to go to war. And when is it necessary you ask? Whenever we say so of course. Haven't we already told you that we're the adults?' It is this central notion that allows the right to consider itself the normative standard of Americanism. It is they who decide what is native and what is foreign, what is mainstream and what is radical, for the rest of us are hopeless innocents; doomed without their paternal vigilance.
How exactly did torture and indefinite detention become official planks of the Republican Party. You have the general reasons for why anyone tortures anyone; hatred towards the enemy in war, hatred towards the racial or religious other, general contempt for anyone at our mercy who dares to beg for it. The sexual revelry of unrestrained power, always.
A true love of torture requires a sexual orientation to power, not to powerful men but to the power itself. It is perfectly clear that this is Dick Cheney's orientation, and also the orientation of John Yoo, the Bush administration lawyer that was tasked with declaring whatever the administration chose to do to detainees was constitutional. When quoted in the New York times as follows “What’s the big whoop? he asked. 'The Constitution makes the president the chief law enforcement officer. We had an election. President Obama has softer policies on terror than his predecessor.' He said, 'He can and should put people into office who share his views.” it's perfectly clear what sort of 'softness' he is thinking about. But back to the point.
The modern American right have been likened to fascists many times, in fact too many times, and I am as guilty of this as anyone else. So I will choose for now to ignore their self-righteousness, cultish contempt for outsiders, love of struggle for its own sake, etc etc. However much of a threat to liberty I consider modern Republicans to be, I don't believe conservatives generally share the sexual love of power felt by Cheney and Yoo. I'm willing to give the Mark Thiessens of the world the benefit of the doubt and assume that their "pre-9-11" minds would have been disgusted by the thought of their government engaging in torture for any reason; that they would still be disgusted by it post 9-11, if only a Republican administration had not made torture and detention official national security policy, if only John Yoo had not codified it into official conservative legal thought. Now these things simply must be right. And however much they have to convince themselves that water is dry in order to believe that torture and secret detention are right I have no doubt that they most sincerely do. Indeed the secretive nature of torture and its legal justifications have served to give Republican foreign policy even more of an aura of unquestionable wisdom among the converted.
The recent ad put out by doting daughter Liz Cheney's "Keep America Safe" outfit, questioning the loyalty of "Al-Queda seven" lawyers who dare to represent terror suspects, is of course despicable. Thiessen's assertion to Jon Stewart that 'terror lawyers' should be assumed to be under the thrall of their clients in the same manner as 'mob lawyers' is utter nonsense. And when he answered in a weaselly affirmative when Stewart asked him if lawyers who represent pedophiles should be considered pro-pedophilia it was jaw-dropping. The idea that lawyers of accused criminals simply must approve of the acts of the guilty is beyond absurd. It is to reject our entire legal system. It is to reject any legal system worthy of the name, it is to negate any concept of due process for not just "enemy combatants" but for anyone.
But instead of being outraged by this let us instead take a moment to feel sorry for those who have willed themselves to believe such twaddle. The Thiessens of the world have staked their entire professional lives upon "knowing" that Republican foreign policy is never wrong. Their entire self-image as worthy and important people is based on "knowing" that imperialism is the only alternative to national impotence. So of course there is no limit to the amount of neon bullshit they will swallow rather than believe otherwise. This, children, is what "Banality of Evil" means. This is how atrocities on a national scale come about, not by the hands of a thousand evil men, but a small handful of wicked men riding the wave of a million small men's vanities.