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Monday, May 10, 2004

Wishing makes it true

Bush thinks Rumsfeld does a great job. I think this is more than just the usual "pretend it's not a problem until the press gives up" strategy at play. Earlier, I suggested that the right is testing the waters to see if they can get popular support behind for these tortures. Limbaugh has been alternating between defending and downplaying the torture for a week now. So, there will be a few words coughed up about how bad they feel, a massive cover-up to hide the worst of it and then an effort to drum up support to continue torturing the "bad guys". Refusing to hold Rumsfeld accountable even though odds are he knew damn well that something like this would happen is part of the larger strategy of getting the American public to accept gross violence on our behalf.
Ezra at Pandagon takes the middle ground and argues that it is incompetence and know-nothingness that caused the situation for torture to happen. While there is no doubt in my mind that is a large part of it, I think it's worse than that. We have to consider the possibility that BushCo is deliberately making this situation uglier and more violent than it has to be out of misguided ideaology.
Think of all the different attitudes that draw people to conservatism nowadays and how the extreme right is getting a louder and more belligerent presence in the Republican party. Rove, etc. have demonstrated that they are willing to pander to the extremists in their party well past any point of reason. They are convinced that they need to hang on as tightly as possible to the good opinion of the fundamentalists and Freepers. And this torture scandal can probably end up helping them if they spin it the right way.
Many fundamentalists already think Islam is the equivalent to Satanism. Odds are the Falwell followers don't really see the downside to torturing Muslims.
The Fox news crowd might actually be confused as to whether or not these men in these prison photos had anything to do with 9/11. If the right wing punditry keeps saying things along the lines of, "This is bad but not as bad as 9/11," then that connection will be made. And since most of us would like to torture the men responsible for 9/11 to death in a slow and painful manner, if people can be convinced that this torture is retribution for 9/11 they are likely to accept it.
Of course, the strong misogynistic streak in modern conservatism is being trotted out. Misogyny is an amazingly flexible paradigm--since women are more than 1/2 the population they can be blamed for all the world's problems somewhat easily. I'm hearing arguments that this is women's fault because of course they will torture given power since women are base and wicked and that's why they need to be kept out of power. Also, it is being argued that disapproving of torture smacks of too-niceness, a "feminization" of our culture that needs to be eradicated. While these two concepts seem at odds (How can women be both too nice and too cruel?), they really aren't by the emotional logic of misogyny.
I hate to say it, but I am afraid that by deftly combining already-present misogyny, religious intolerance, xenophobia, and ignorance, the Bush administration will be able to make enough people accept the torture as necessary or even downright desirable to escape the ramifications for it. And that means that it will continue as it is, if not get worse.
One way or another, the first step in the strategy of escaping blame has already taken hold: downplay the torture by using weasel words like "abuse" and "mistreatment" (making these things smaller will make them easier to accept and even embrace when they continue) and focus not on the cruelty of the actions but on the lesser issue of how stupid you must be to take pictures. The latter will be a popular strategy in the coming month in the right wing channels, to change to subject from what was done (beating, raping) and its prevalence to these specific photos and the stupidity of taking them.


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