Rest of World Plays Follow-the-Leader On Torture

We knew it would happen, and it has: the rest of the world is following our lead on treatment of detainees and torture.

AP story this morning: Detainee Treatment Emulated

Manfred Nowak, the UN “special rappporteur” on torture, said that “when he criticizes governments for their questionable treatment of detainees, they respond by telling him that if the United States does something, it must be all right.”

Another money quote:

“The United States has been the pioneer, if you wish, of human rights and is a country that has a high reputation in the world,” Nowak said. “Today, many other governments are kind of saying, ‘But why are you criticizing us? We are not doing something different than what the United States is doing.'”

As another diarist said on dailyKos, even when other countries disagreed with us or resented us, there was always a feeling that the US was based on a different set of principles, that we were the nation founded on the idea of freedom and respect for human rights. If we abandon those ideals, we are nothing but another big, arrogant country.

And the world turns away, disappointed, even as they throw our actions back in our face.

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Ethics versus Morals

As we prepare for the inauguration and reflect on recent and current events, we may find benefit in the comparison of ethics versus morals.

Morals, according to the dictionary, is “concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action.” And when it comes to judgment, the current crop of Bushites certainly excel, especially in the sexual arena. Their judgment is clear: abortion is immoral, homosexuality is immoral, gay marriage is immoral. Stating these judgments loud and often was their path to power. And, it worked.

Ethics, on the other hand, is “a set of principles of right conduct.” Again, the actions of this administration and its supporters are clear. Torture — not immoral, must be okay. Rape of the environment — not immoral, must be okay. Corporate and personal greed — not immoral, must be okay. Revealing the identity of an undercover CIA agent to get back at her husband — not immoral, must be okay. Telling lies about opponents in order to get elected — not immoral, must be okay. Lying to go to war — not immoral, must be okay.

Obviously, the Bush team, and many of their supporters, see no connection between morals and ethics. You could say they have morals without ethics. They can judge others, they can hold others up to the moral mirror, but when they themselves look in the same mirror, all they see is their own unseeing eyes.