Friday, September 10, 2010

Does Anything Ever Trump "National Security"?

The US courts and government have decided more or less definitively time and again that the US is a torturing nation by blocking any and all efforts at accountability in the name of "national security." Particularly as a democratic country, US citizens are complicit in this policy. Welcome to the 21st Century. Is it possible for it to be even uglier than the 20th?

A question: does anything ever trump "national security"? The apparent operating assumption is that anything can be excused in the name of national security. But can you tell me what, precisely, that is without resorting to platitudes?

Is the policy of torture and non-accountability for torture actually in the interests of national security? In the short term or long term? Is a system of basic liberties, transparency, and democratic accountability unrelated to national security?

And can you tell me why the non-platitudinous conception of national security trumps other concerns? For example, the reality that torture is one of the great evils, which was until the Bush administration treated by all law-respecting nations as non-derogable peremptory law (jus cogens). Peremptory law is about as close as you can come in civil and international law and morality to the objective reality of the basic laws of physics. What gives national security this special status?

One response might be simple survival, that life is ultimately preferable to no life, regardless of the quality of that life. But that's not what is at stake here and never has been with the torture regime. Furthermore, isn't a national defense, a military, comprised of those who will surrender their lives to defend something greater?

"Security" is often cited as connected to "defense of our liberties," etc. etc. Why does no one seem to understand that the Janus-face of security is always a loss of liberty? And why does no one seem to understand that the fetishization of "security" is the vocation of Orwellian tyrants?

1 comment:

MT said...

"Fetishization" doesn't seem too strong a word, but how we use "security" seems to belong as much to self comforting as to tyranny. But I suppose the perfect tyrant is the sincere cult leader--and analyzing how talk is how we test the Kool-Aid.