Clarance Darrow, the famous defense lawyer, got it right back in 1920 talking about that era's parade of hysteria-driven abuses known as the First Red Scare: "People are getting more cruel all the time, more insistent that they shall have their way," he told friends back then. "The fact is that I am getting afraid of everyone who has conviction."
Eighty years later, in 2001, President George W. Bush showed plenty of conviction when he declared his Global War on Terror after the attacks on our country of September 11 that year. Every American, as a basic civic duty, should spend the few minutes it takes to read the "Torture Memos" released yesterday by the Department of Justice, written in 2002 and 2005 to justify dispensing with two centuries of American decency -- just to see when happens when hysteria is allowed to control the minds of normally rational people.
These memos -- well-wrtten, highly-researched, and technically cogent -- specify in sobering detail just how cruel our government was prepared to be in waging this War, with no weighing of any consequences outside these narrowest legal grounds. They explain how ten forms of aggressive interrogation did not amount to torture and thus were protected by law: "(1) attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap (insult slap), (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivations, (9) insects placed in a confinement box, and (10) the waterboard."
Imagine if any other country ever dared to use these techniques against American citizens, and then justified them on the basis of the attached legal mumbo-jumbo.
Here are the links:
-- The August 1, 2002 memo, initially justifying the ten technogues, written by Jay Bybee, who sits today as a Federal Appeals Court Judge. (On whether Judge Bybee should be impeached, click here to see Yale Law Professor Bruce Ackerman's take on the issue from last January);
-- The May 10, 2005 memo providing a more detailed legal justification (much more graphic);
-- The May 10, 2005 memo, justifying use of the techniques in combination; and
-- The May 30, 2005 memo, justifying how the techniques do not violate United Nations Conventions.