Public Morality

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Globe columnist James Carroll defines the wrong track we’re on:

If this nation followed the pattern of its own historic reckoning with the ever unfinished work of public morality, political discourse would be defined by the dual-project of eliminating nuclear weapons and building international structures of peace. Instead, we are paralyzed by a war that no one wants, unable to change what matters most.

Last week, this story reached a climax of sorts, with developments like these:

War Cost. With new budget requests, the Iraq war price tag jumped over the $600 billion mark – enough, extrapolating from figures of the National Priorities Project, to add 9 million teachers to public schools for a year. Where would American education be if that happened instead? And where Iraq?

Mercenaries. We learned that the United States government has surrendered to "private contractor" hit squads the primal function of protecting its own diplomats in Iraq. Such unaccountable and profit-driven forces betray the foundational American military ethic. Hessians at last.

Abolition. Barack Obama made a major speech calling for a return to the long-abandoned goal of nuclear elimination. "We need to change our nuclear policy and our posture, which is still focused on deterring the Soviet Union – a country that doesn’t exist." The major news media ignored this important declaration, obsessing instead with horse-race polls and fund-raising totals. Nuclear reform (antidote to proliferation and terrorism both) is not a campaign issue.

Torture. The Bush administration was revealed to have again secretly approved "enhanced" interrogation methods at restored CIA "black sites," where prisoners are once more held without treaty protections – measures that Congress and the Supreme Court have already rejected. Despite scandals, US torture continues.