I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British, during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, "we don't torture," when the -- the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat. And -- and -- and the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking shortcuts, and over time, that corrodes what's -- what's best in a people.We can perhaps forgive President Obama for ignoring The London Cage. Probably just a few bad apples anyway. (Churchill was, on the other hand, infamously bloodthirsty when it came to "primitive tribes" and other subjects of the empire. Gas the Kurds, torture the Kikuyu, and so on.) Look, the Allies firebombed Dresden; America nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki, pace John Stewart. We would be wise to establish a rule that appealing to the leaders of chief belligerents in a vast global war will not result in clear moral direction. The question of who did or did not commit atrocities during the Second World War rather hops over the fact that The Second World War was an atrocity that superseded any of its component parts. There is a point at which this contest to name the greatest restraint in the face of the mostest evil skips directly to farce. During WWII, a bunch of terrible, brutal, vastly powerful men made terrible, brutal, and largely exigent decisions as they hurled millions of men and billions of tons of matériel at each other. Yes, the Nazis were very bad, but so was Stalin, and so was Chiang Kai-Shek. How do you even craft a moral equation? Were 6 million European Jews worth 20 million Soviets? It is a conflagration totally devoid of moral lessons or principles--just horror, pure horror, and destruction. Hauling out our bloody ancestors as paragons against which we measure our own perversions is a losing proposition, whether we grapple with it truthfully or, like Obama, deploy it dishonestly in the service of prevarication.
We don't torture.
-George W. Bush