Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not those of St. George News.
OPINION –Those who have been slow or unwilling to recognize the advent of totalitarianism in America would be wise to check out this interview that aired recently on CBS. The conversation between correspondent Leslie Stahl and Jose Rodriguez, former head of the CIA’s shadowy Clandestine Service, revealed our government’s growing willingness to engage in institutionalized torture.
Rodriguez not only sought to justify the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” as necessary to national security, but when asked about the danger of going toward the dark side, he replied, “We are the dark side.”
While such sentiments may warm the hearts of those armchair warriors who’ve watched a few too many episodes of “24,” they also illustrate that the concept of unchecked power over principle isn’t found exclusively in evil foreign dictatorships. Our own leaders’ policies reveal that they too struggle with this troubling aspect of human nature.
In his masterpiece “The Gulag Archipelago” Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote of the brutal reality of the Soviet penal system in which he was a prisoner for 8 years. Under the guise of protecting the state from its alleged “enemies,” many thousands of Soviets were arrested, tortured and imprisoned on the flimsiest of pretexts while being denied any semblance of due process.
How could the consciences of those who served as the arrestors, the interrogators and the guards of the state’s security apparatus become so dulled that torture became acceptable? The answer: unchecked power.
Solzhenitsyn explains, “Power is a poison well known for thousands of years … but to the human being who has some faith in the force that holds dominion over all of us, and who is therefore conscious of his own limitations, power is not necessarily fatal. For those, however, who are unaware of any higher sphere, it is a deadly poison. For them there is no antidote.”
Those who ran the gulags justified their torture of prisoners as necessary to the national security of their nation. They used some of the very same methods our own leaders secretly approved in 2005 including sleep deprivation, stress positions, exposure to cold, and water boarding to extract the confession they wanted from the prisoners.
Of course our leaders prefer using the kinder, gentler euphemism of “enhanced interrogation techniques” which is coincidently how the Gestapo referred to their methods for getting people to talk while investigating matters of national security.
So which is more troubling; comparing the interrogation tactics being used by the CIA to those used by totalitarian regimes or the fact that such tactics are official policy of our government?
It’s truly sad to see how many otherwise rational people will excuse institutionalized abuse at the hands of the state when it’s done in the name of security. By justifying the mistreatment of terror suspects in describing them as “animals” or “subhuman,” the state’s apologists unwittingly follow the same reasoning by which the German people were led to believe that the Third Reich’s actions against its “undesirables” were necessary for securing the safety of the fatherland.
The many steps between demonizing the targeted segment of the population, legally stripping them of their rights and marching them into the showers were gradual and always cloaked in the language of fear and necessity.
The movie “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” brilliantly illustrates how normal Germans were gradually indoctrinated into the belief that the people behind the barbed wire weren’t “really people at all” and that the state was merely doing what had to be done. The movie contains a powerful lesson based in factual history; namely, that portraying others as less than human can easily lead to the rationalization of behaviors that are unchecked by morality or ethics.
Fear and arrogance are what cause us to forget or dismiss the fact that even our enemies are created in the image of God. Can one still be a follower of the Prince of Peace while engaging in situational ethics for the sake of temporal power over another?
Opposition to torture should be based upon the recognition that what we allow government to do to the undesirables among us can just as easily be done to us. This is especially true considering that the state assumes the authority to expand its definition of who is considered a threat to national security at its whim.
The firewall of limited state power that protects the rights of the undesirables also protects our own inalienable rights.
This in no way negates our right to defend our loved ones, our country and ourselves. It simply acknowledges the harsh reality that a government that recognizes no limits on its actions creates a far more genuine threat than all the terrorists of the world combined.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.