Advent of torture

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People everywhere respect what is most remote and least liable to have its reputation put to the test. At the least reverse, many would look down on us, and would join our enemies against us. ~ Thucydides, History of the Pelopponesian War

How did we go from the heroism, unity and sense of purpose that marked September 11, 2001, to the degradation, shame and cruelty of Abu Ghraib? Do you remember the spirit of that painful fall three years ago? We said that we had to know our enemies, and cooperate with our friends — especially our friends in the Middle East. We could rely for assistance on people everywhere who were equally determined to destroy al Qaeda. We knew that many Muslims shared our determination to put this organization out of business. And we knew that we needed their help.


I wrote those words about fifteen years ago. You sense the moral urgency. A lot has happened in fifteen years to degrade moral urgency, and increase cynicism. Then as now, writing paragraphs like that helps you through disappointments and troubles. Still, you wish you had no occasion for thoughts like that.