Welcome to the era of Deranged Debate, in which subjects utterly beyond the pale are treated as worthy of serious argument.
Torture? Criminally barbarous at all times. An unmitigated evil under any circumstances. Contrary to every principle of civilization, and everything America stands for. And yet in the pages of our leading newspapers and incessantly on TV and radio, torture by our own government is discussed as something that might have been justified, may have worked, could have protected us, isn't really so bad when used against -- "them."
Only the profoundly ignorant of history can be unaware of how "them" can become "us" suddenly and arbitrarily. Only the abysmally stupid could fail to grasp the savagery, the inhumanity and mutual degradation involved in any act of torture. But that doesn't stop the debate. Just today, here is the unspeakable Cheney, who should be serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity, on the front page of the New York Times offering a "sharp defense" of torture.
Universal health care. In what possible way can it be a bad thing to provide adequate medical facilities for every citizen? Especially when tens of millions in the richest country on the planet have no care at all. What sane argument can be advanced for a health system that spends far more than any other but ranks a mere thirty-seventh in the world in results? Imbeciles and those who've sold their souls to the insurance industry excepted, what the devil is there to debate?
Few people noticed, but John O. Brennan, our new counter-terrorism chief, Obama's Richard Clarke, called off the "war on terror" a couple of weeks ago. In a barely-reported speech he declared that the militarized approach of the Bush administration had done more harm than good and said, "We cannot shoot ourselves out of this challenge." Sane people knew this all along. As retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni told Bill Maher last week, Bush declaring war on terrorism was as if President Wilson had declared war on U-boats.
GWOT was such a ridiculous idea that it never was the least bit worthy of debate. But Brennan's candor begs a pressing question. If the war on terror is over, and putting aside the issue of why we went there in the first place, what the devil are we still doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? Our troops are dying in a war that was farcical from the outset and whose utility has now been repudiated by the very people still waging it. So what's to argue?
The mere fact that in each of these cases one side has an argument that is not merely irrational but psychopathic will do nothing to still the clamor. Such is the utterly debased state of public discourse in our era.