Monday, January 26, 2009

Hilzoy takes a truly damning look at GTMO's case files and some other details of a particular detainee's case. It's an honestly incredible combination of evil practices and incompetence.

I think I had a tendency to imagine the torture regime as either coldly, calculatingly, inexorably evil, or deeply misguided but mostly well-intentioned. This was because it's hard for me to understand how anybody would get into government who didn't have either a nefarious plan or a desire, however misdirected, to do good--what's the motivation? The degree to which the Bush administration appears to have been just floundering around in everything it did is truly breathtaking. I can't get my head around what any of these people set out to do when they entered public service, except perhaps for Donald Rumsfeld, who at least articulated a vision of streamlining the Pentagon.

I suppose in Bush's own case some of it had to do with personal failures and some daddy issues, but in order to empathize with that I would have to suspend my respect both for government and for myself. Being who he was, Bush could never have been anything but an embarrassment of a President, and attempting the Presidency was the kind of personal overreach that could only end in tears (cf. Sarah Palin, Rod Blagojevich). Deciding to attempt it demonstrated a profound lack of self-awareness and of self-respect. On top of that, going into government for such selfish reasons (if that is indeed the case--I could be entirely wrong about this whole line of thought) requires such a disregard for the meaning and significance of politics and governance that I am offended at the thought.

Which would be worse--Bush having decided to attempt the Presidency out of a need for affirmation and a disregard/sense of entitlement for the office, or having attempted it in good faith and truly being just that ineffectual and lacking in vision?

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