As it takes courage to insist upon the humanity of terrorists, so it takes courage to insist that torturers, too, were born crying like the rest of us. Now is not the time to replace one set of demons and witch hunts with another.
The opportunity is tempting enough for the world’s majority. We have been offended long enough by the demonizing rhetorics of the Bush-led war on terror. And we will not accept the apology, that beneficence is the ultimate value of his so-called anti-terror machine.
In opposing the Bush world order, we have to root out this logic of demonology, where evil actions are to be explained solely in terms of an isolated, evil few.
The logic of demonology, for instance, dominates the world view of CACI International Chair and CEO, Dr. J.P. (Jack) London, who says flat out, regarding “our enemies” in the war on terror that, “These people must be eliminated.”
The danger today is that a world, which has too long suffered the effects of such demonology, will attempt to grab the essential logic of this war as its weapon, leaving only the question of conquest in place.
Dr. London’s logic is instructive for understanding how the Bush machine deploys itself as a system of power. “For centuries, the maxim was, ‘divide and conquer,” says Dr. London. “In the new, networked world, however, the watchwords are, ‘communicate and conquer.”
If the majority of the world is going to get out of this game alive, it important that we not re-deploy these logics of conquest or elimination. Otherwise, as we seek justice against the multiple atrocities that fill our lives, we will have nothing but more wars and more prisons before us.
The prison guards at Abu Ghraib bring us a warning that exceeds the meaning of their individuality. What they give us are images of a future speeded up, a future that we will certainly achieve worldwide if we do not reorganize ourselves thoroughly. And we have to begin that transformation today.
President Bush is saying that US prison workers in Iraq do not represent us as a nation. He wishes to disown them. But in his State of the Union Address this year, the President talked about 600,000 prisoners in America who will be released to the streets in 2004. US prisons, like Iraqi prisons, are terrible witnesses to freedom and justice. Nothing about them serves as evidence that we are a freedom-loving people.
In the US we have been party to a prison boom at home. Not only are we building and filling more prisons, but we are also intensifying the pain of prison life by withdrawing education, programs, and basic human comforts. Slavery in the USA is still Constitutional, according to the 13th Amendment, so far as convicts are involved.
When Bush’s logic of demonology is grafted to Dr. London’s theory of communication, it disables our ability to think our way into a democratic future. Privatized media, privatized corrections, and now privatized squads of torture, practice the cynical assumption that public democracy is irretrievable.
The peace movement argued against all these odds that Bush’s logic of war would aggravate the violence, not cure the world. Terrorists, argued the peace movement, have histories, and their histories are connected to our own histories in ways that-if we examine ourselves and our choices diligently-implicate us in a common world of pain.
Likewise now with the young American torturers. Their histories are bound up with our national logics of demonology, elimination, and conquest. They have exported into Iraq a garrison mentality and a theory of communication that promotes progress through iron will. The kind of justice we seek has to break these cycles of inhumanity, or we will have no peace in the end, even if the torturers are disowned and put away for life.
Two hundred billion dollars we can summon to pay contractors and wage war half a world away. Yet we have no money to fund a first-class initiative for public health or education. In Texas, school children will be lucky to get two percent more next year, just to name one example of bad faith. God protect our income from taxes. And please, Lord, keep the contractors free to devour our public services at the going market rate.
The sickness of the terrorist is like the sickness of the torturer, and it is a sickness that begins in our own pocketbook of denuded ideals. We cannot afford to feed our frenzies any more. We have to reflect, forgive, and change paths. Now.