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The United States of Amorality

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Message Ken Sanders
We can all forget about God blessing America. No God would bless such a narcissistic nation. It's time to dispense with our deluded and romanticized notions of America standing for truth, justice, or the rule of law. We subvert such principles whenever it suits us. No more pointing to the Ten Commandments as the cornerstone of our collective conscience. We have none.

Regardless of all of its self-righteousness, its arrogance, and its feigned piety, the United States is a nation devoid of morality. The U.S. government and a majority of Americans don't think their actions fall within the quaint and inconvenient parameters of right and wrong, good and bad. More to the point, the U.S. thinks it can do no wrong. Rather, the U.S. believes itself to be intrinsically good, infallible, and above reproach. Indeed, as far as the U.S. is concerned, it is the only nation and the only people incapable of wrongdoing, much less evil.

In fact, the U.S. is not only capable of great evil, it commits acts of great evil on a near daily basis. It commits such acts because it has no moral center. It commits such acts because it thinks and behaves like a spoiled child - as though it is entitled to do and have anything it wants. It thinks itself chosen by God and the sole recipient of His divine favoritism. As a result, the U.S. perceives the rest of the world as scorned by God, to one degree or another. As the one true favorite of the Almighty, the U.S. sees nothing wrong with disrupting, bullying, and invading other countries. It has no problem with unilaterally declaring international laws inapplicable to it, but fully enforceable against all others.

A nation that believes itself incapable of evil understands neither good nor evil. A nation that thinks itself capable only of good is blind to its acts of evil. A nation that anoints itself as the final arbiter of morality is too arrogant to be truly moral itself. Having no capacity to acknowledge its capacity for evil, such a nation believes that all of its acts are justified. Put differently, it behaves like a sociopath - amoral and without conscience.

The amorality of the United States manifests itself in many ways. Its policy of immediate gratification known as realpolitik. Its refusal to see any need to keep track of the number of Iraqi civilians it kills in order to "liberate" them. Its indignation at the prospect of being accountable to any international body or tribunal. All are examples of the United States' utter lack of any sense of moral responsibility or accountability.

The ongoing revelations of the United States' policy of torture and degradation is an extremely instructive example of the United States' collective amorality. Despite the continually mounting evidence of America's torture of suspected terrorists and insurgents, of a clandestine network of CIA "interrogation" centers in torture-friendly countries, and of the so-called extraordinary rendition of terror suspects to such countries, most Americans see no need for change. With the exception of the extremely small dissident community, Americans are hard-pressed to find anything wrong with torturing alleged terrorists. Their response to the CIA's black sites and torture flights is, "So what?"

Most Americans, when confronted with evidence of the United States' torture policies and practices, strive to come up with rationalizations and justifications. We are at war against a great evil, rendering the traditional rules of war "quaint" and inappropriate. We should not be held to higher standards than those we are fighting. Torture is necessary to gain "actionable intelligence" to prevent another 9/11 from occurring. The alleged torture we inflict isn't really torture at all; it's more akin to frat house hazing.

The United States' cavalier attitude toward torture, black sites, and extraordinary rendition stands in stark contrast to the attitudes of the rest of the world, particularly Europe. While the United States' law enforcement agencies, judiciary, and citizenry sit idly by, their European counterparts, outraged by the revelations, are seriously investigating the United States' actions. What the United States deems perfectly appropriate, the European Union finds abhorrent and contrary to basic principles of human rights and decency. What elicits little more than a shrug of the shoulders in the United States elicits moral outrage in Europe.

In Spain, police have identified as many as 42 CIA operatives suspected of having taken part extraordinary rendition flights of kidnapped terror suspects to interrogation centers in Afghanistan, Egypt, and other countries with relaxed torture laws. The Spanish are investigating because a dozen such flights stopped over in Mallorca on their way to their final destination. Prosecutors in Munich have asked Spanish police for a copy of their findings as part of Germany's investigation into the kidnapping of a German citizen who was tortured and beaten for six months before his abductors realized he had no connection to terrorism. Some of the CIA operatives identified by the Spanish police are reportedly among the more than 20 agents who have been indicted by Italian prosecutors on similar charges. Italian prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for the CIA agents and have asked the Italian Justice Ministry to demand the agents' extradition from the U.S. The governments of Sweden and Norway are conducting their own investigations into CIA torture flights using their airfields. Switzerland is investigating whether the United States violated Swiss sovereignty and international law by routing CIA flights through Geneva.

It's not merely individual European countries that are appalled at the United States' institutional disregard for human rights. The Council of Europe - the EU's human rights watchdog organization - demanded that by February 21, 2006, all 46 of its member states provide any information they have regarding illegal jailing of suspected terrorists, or flights that have been used to transport such suspects. Additionally, the Council has requested from Europe's air traffic control agency the unpublished flight logs of military and civilian flights. Any European countries found to have participated in the United States' torture practices could be suspended or expelled from the Council, as well as subjected to fines and loss of trade privileges.

The EU has also requested that its Satellite Tracking Center turn over imagery of alleged CIA black sites in Romania and Poland. Moreover, the EU's executive body has directed its head of the Department of Justice, Freedom and Security, to demand answers from the Bush administration regarding the secret prisons.

In all likelihood, the United States in general, and the Bush administration in particular, will simply dismiss the various European investigations as politically motivated. Alternatively, the U.S. will ignore the investigations outright. In either case, the United States will indignantly insist that it has not done anything wrong or even questionable in its global war on terror. It will suffer no crisis of conscience.

Lacking empathy and morality, the United States is relieved of the burden of a conscience and all of its unnecessary limitations.


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Ken Sanders is a lawyer and writer in Tucson, Arizona. His publishing credits include Op Ed News, Z Magazine, Democratic Underground, Dissident Voice, and Common Dreams. More of his writing can be found on his weblog at (more...)
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