Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Next Generation of Global Leaders

Echidne snarks about it:
Then Palin went on attack, telling us how very much better John McCain was than Barack Obama, because he was a POW and was tortured. Lots of people in Guantanamo Bay will be surprised to hear that they, too, are now presidential material.

She is being sarcastic. But I genuinely worry. Being tortured, abused, harassed, or illegitimately detained by a reviled state (foreign or domestic) is, in fact, a route to political and/or social power. Senator John McCain is just one example. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is another, as is Vaclav Havel. The Sadr family in Iraq gained significant popular following after the father was killed by Saddam Hussein. It happens for the very reasons John McCain talks about: being tortured is a demonstration of loyalty and perseverance in the heart of darkness. And, whether we admit it or not, that syllogism still applies when it is our men and women who are creating the moral void.

I genuinely fear that, one of these days, a released Guantanamo, Abu Gharib, or "black site" detainee will ride to political power as a survivor of American torture. Why couldn't it happen? Standing up to America is quite popular right now in the international community. The people who we've tortured are, I suspect, not all that concerned with damaging America's image. And given our non-existent legal safeguards, it's quite possible that our theoretical Guantanamo Archipelago survivor might even be innocent of all terrorist charges.

A President of a foreign nation whose claim to fame is surviving American torture. Very little could be more damaging to our standing in the world than that image.

No comments: