I suppose we often equate evil with genius. I'm not really sure why that is. But the evil character in fiction is seldom a moron. Evil, after all, requires calculation. But it also requires brutality and brutality doesn't require brains. One thing I've learned from the Bush administration is that you can be evil and stupid as all hell at the same time.
And, just as the administration has been defined by calculating evil, they've also been defined by their stupidity. "Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man," said Colin Powell's chief of staff of Undersecretary of Defense Donald Feith -- a key architect of the Iraq war. It turns out that evil doesn't require a lot of skill.
And Powell aide Larry Wilkerson didn't just have a poor opinion of Feith's intelligence, he thought they were all morons. At an address to the New America Foundation, he warned that hurricane Katrina was just the tip of the iceberg. If there were some sort of nuclear or biological attack on the US, "you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that'll take you back to the Declaration of Independence."
It's that special mix of evil and incompetence that makes the Bush administration so damned dangerous. They seem to be literally unable to detect bad ideas and have no familiarity with the concept of consequence. Bush, who can barely speak, seems to be the slow one, but it turns out they're all dumber than a sack of hammers. There are no evil geniuses, no cunning Sith Lords, in the neocon cabal. They're all just stupid.
Nowhere do we see this very special mixture of evil and stupidity demonstrated so perfectly as we do in the treatment of detainees. By relying on torture, we give excuses to our enemies, handing them the very real and very true position of fighting evil. We like to think of ourselves as the good guys, but there are no good guys in the "War on terror" -- just evil people with conflicting motives.
Just how evil and how stupid we've been has been investigated by Physicians for Human Rights and it turns out that we've been pretty god damned stupid and pretty god damned evil. The man who investigated abuse at Abu Ghraib, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, led PHR's study.
"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Taguba found. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
I can answer that question. No. They won't be held to account. Ever. Because Democratic leadership in Congress are just as stupid as any denizen of the White House. Unless we get someone into leadership who gives a damn, these morons will get away with everything. Instead of rotting in prison, former administration officials will make a bundle with speaking tours and as talking heads on FOX. Nothing will happen to them.
The study looked at 11 detainees who were eventually released without charges -- i.e., innocent people -- and found that they "had been subject to cruelties that ranged from isolation, sleep deprivation and hooding to electric shocks, beating and, in one case, being forced to drink urine."
You know what I'd be if this happened to me? I'd be a damned terrorist, that's what I'd be. I'd want to see the country that did that to me in flames. Like I say, this is both stupid and evil. You don't fight terrorism by creating terrorists. And that's exactly what we're doing.
A McClatchy investigation found that instead of confining terrorists, Guantanamo often produced more of them by rounding up common criminals, conscripts, low-level foot soldiers and men with no allegiance to radical Islam — thus inspiring a deep hatred of the United States in them — and then housing them in cells next to radical Islamists.
You really don't have to be a genius to see that one coming. You just have to be "not stupid." McClatchy describes innocent detainees as "enraged at America" because of the injustice of being held against their will by a foreign government and because of the abuse they've suffered. Prisons like Gitmo aren't keeping us safe from terrorism, they're terrorist factories. We're increasing the number of terrorists in the world.
"A lot of our friends are working against the Americans now, because if you torture someone without any reason, what do you expect?" says Issa Khan, a Pakistani and former detainee. "Many people who were in Guantanamo are now working with the Taliban."
In the end, we're finding out that torture is just as stupid as it is evil. And we're also finding out just what very stupid people are capable of. You ever see that reality show "COPS?" One thing you learn from watching that show is that the average criminal is a freakin' idiot. It turns out that war criminals share that trait with street criminals -- the vast majority of them have all the intelligence of cold gravel.
Unfortunately for us, they'll never pay for either their evil or their idiocy. We'll bear that burden, as we deal with the consequences of the Bush administration's crimes long into the future.
Technorati tags: politics; war; Iraq; Afghanistan; Guantanamo; Abu Ghraib; crime; scandal; neocon; White House; Bush; Turns out that torture isn't just evil, it's stupid