Collective Responsibility First

All the President’s Accomplices
How the country acquiesced to Bush’s torture policy.
By Jacob Weisberg
Posted Saturday, May 2, 2009, at 8:18 AM ETT

The use of torture on suspected terrorists after Sept. 11 has already earned a place in American history’s hall of shame, alongside the Alien and Sedition Acts, Japanese internment during World War II, and the excesses of the McCarthy era. Even liberal societies seem to experience these authoritarian spasms from time to time. It is the aftermath of such episodes—what happens when a country comes to its senses—that reveals the most about a nation’s character. How do we come to terms with having betrayed our ideals?

This Salon piece really gets to what I think we ought to be thinking about right now instead of looking to put CIA interrogators on trial.

We ALL knew it was going on, we all knew they were waterboarding, torturing, kidnapping people, etc. We all knew and only a very few of us made a real issue of it. Too few even raised an objection. Far too few to make it the sort of issue that makes politicians fear for their jobs. Why did WE acquiesce? And why are some of us now so eager to scapegoat our functionaries? The guilt lies all around–convicting those who carried out what we allowed and tacitly encouraged isn’t going to help. The people in the dock is US.

When we come to terms with that, only then should we think about what more particular responsibility others hold.

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