From the Editor

John Turner

More and more information is coming out about the series of prisons the United States has established around the world. And as it does, we see there is no system of due process followed in any of them. People are jailed for reasons that no one ever explains, held for years, sometimes tortured, sometimes released. There is nothing rational about any of it. And in the face of this behavior, the president thinks the United States can stand as a moral exemplar to the world.

We may as well face up to it. Being an American means being viewed by most of the people of the world as a citizen of a criminal nation. People understand that an individual can't control his government but nevertheless, the stain drips onto all of us. And as far as I can tell, most of us don't care.

It's not that American behavior is worse than the behavior of all other nations. It's not. But the gap between our behavior and our proclamations about ourselves probably does lead the world. Hypocrisy tops cruelty in producing anger and disgust.

As I write this, the White House is said to be conferring with senators about the president's torture and kangaroo court bill. A compromise is predicted. What that might be, God only knows. But considering how influence is peddled in Washington now, I don't have great confidence.

Meanwhile, leading media figures look grave.

We can only hope this is the lowest point in our national political history. If we go lower it's hard to imagine how we will scramble out of the hole we have dug for ourselves. But if we're going to stop the descent we've got to acknowledge that the people in the major positions of our government are dedicated to driving us farther down. This is what they call steely resolve.

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Harvard Square Commentary, September 18, 2006