Is Bush correct when he reassures his war fans that torture is not indicative of American values?
Why expect the US government to show more restraint to Iraqis than it shows its own citizens?
In view of the atrocities the federal government has committed against its own citizens, what is unusual in the US Army report that details "egregious acts" of cruelty and barbarism committed against Iraqi prisoners by US forces?
Why are we surprised that the CIA has launched an investigation of murder of Iraqi prisoners by US guards in Abu Ghraib prison, or that a French TV station has a video of a US helicopter gunship mowing down unarmed Iraqi civilians, or that evidence has come to light that the US is torturing prisoners in Afghanistan as well?
When Bush says that torture is not indicative of American values, he is speaking of the old America, the America of restraint, the America that did not believe that the ends justify the means, a classically educated America that understood that hubris brings nemesis.
The new emerging America is Jacobin. Its will to power has cast off restraint. Its inherent and unique virtue gives it the right—Bush says the duty—to exercise unlimited power in the name of enforcing American values elsewhere in the world.
The new aggressive spirit of America is embodied in the neoconservative ideology that drives the Bush administration. Professor Claes Ryn describes this new spirit in his recent book, America the Virtuous.
It is an imperialistic spirit whose arrogant moral purpose justifies mowing down whatever is seen to stand it its way. Those most imbued with this spirit are trapped firmly within it. If Iraqis resist military imposition of US values, then they must be "thugs and outlaws" deserving to be exterminated for standing in the way of America's virtue and superior morality.
Only evil people would resist the good we are imposing on them. Thus has Bush cast the conflict as one of good vs. evil.
Some US soldiers have caught the spirit that Bush has infused into the conflict. If you pay attention to Bush's speeches, you will see that he is trying to infuse this spirit into the American people.
Beware. It is an evil spirit. Because it brooks no objection, it will bring a police state at home and death and destruction abroad, just as the Jacobins brought to 18th century France and Europe.
Americans must understand that the neo-Jacobin spirit that guides the Bush administration is anti-American. It is not unpatriotic to resist this spirit. It is the same evil spirit that motivated Deutschland uber alles (Germany over all).
Just as the Nazi claim to be the master race trumped all traditional moral standards, the neoconservatives claim that America is uniquely virtuous justifies America's domination over the rest of the world.
Unless Americans stand firm against this spirit, Americans will endure endless wars and great disasters.
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Paul Craig Roberts was Associate Editor of the WSJ editorial page, 1978-80, and columnist for "Political Economy." During 1981-82 he was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution: An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington.