Thursday, December 08, 2005

The role of amnesia in the perpetuation of atrocities

"...inside US collective memory, the disappeared are being disappeared all over again..."
Earlier, I discussed the forgotten history of American torture over the last several decades. This week, Naomi Klein has a very important article in the Nation explaining why remembering and acknowledging this history is essential if we really want to work towards rooting out torture.

In 'Never Before!' Our Amnesiac Torture Debate Klein argues that without an acknowledgement of this history, reforms will be incomplete, eliminating one part of the torture apparatus while allowing the prerogative to torture to survive in loopholes and bureaucratic evasions.
Every time Americans repeat the fairy tale about their pre-Cheney innocence, these already hazy memories fade even further. The hard evidence still exists, of course, carefully archived in the tens of thousands of declassified documents available from the National Security Archive. But inside US collective memory, the disappeared are being disappeared all over again...

And that's the problem with pretending that the Bush Administration invented torture. "If you don't understand the history and the depths of the institutional and public complicity," says McCoy, "then you can't begin to undertake meaningful reforms." Lawmakers will respond to pressure by eliminating one small piece of the torture apparatus--closing a prison, shutting down a program, even demanding the resignation of a really bad apple like Rumsfeld. But, McCoy says, "they will preserve the prerogative to torture."

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