Friday, December 14, 2007

Are Americans Really 'Better Than That'?

Fedor Dostoevsky

by Ray McGovern on AntiWar

A boyish, inquisitive face with an innocent look peered out from the Washington Post's lead story yesterday on torture. It was well groomed, pink-shirted John Kiriakou, a CIA interrogator who could just as easily pass for the local youth minister.

The report by the Post's Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen, which describes Kiriakou's experience in interrogating suspected terrorists, raises in an unusually direct way an abiding question: Should the United States of America be using forms of torture dating back to the Spanish Inquisition?

Nowhere is the mood of that infamous period better portrayed than in the famous Grand Inquisitor chapter of Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky was unusually gifted at plumbing the human heart. While it has been 127 years since he wrote Brothers Karamazov, he nonetheless captures the trap into which so many Americans have fallen in forfeiting freedom through fear. His portrayal of Inquisition reality brings us to the brink of the moral precipice on which our country teeters today. It is as though he knew what would be in store for us as fear was artificially stoked after the attacks of 9/11.

In the story, Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor (the Cardinal of Seville) ridicules Christ for imposing on humans the heavy burden of freedom of conscience, and explains how it is far better, for all concerned, to dull that conscience and to rule by deceit, violence, and fear:

"Didst thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil?...We teach them that it's not the free judgment of their hearts, but mystery which they must follow blindly, even against their conscience.... In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet [and] become obedient...We shall tell them that we are Thy servants and rule them in Thy name.... we shall be forced to lie.... We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated if it is done with our permission."

The rest after the click ...

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