This is a free ZNet Update. We have not been sending as many of these as usual, 
being caught up in the process and also the psychology and demands of the major 
renovation of all our online operations.

This total overhaul and vast enlargement, which is way behind schedule, is now 
finally making serious progress. Indeed, we hope and expect to publicly 
implement the new systems in early Fall. That's the very good news. The very 
bad news is that the delays which have extended what was touted to be a three 
month project to nearly a whole year, have eaten nearly the entirety of our 
financial reserves, leaving us incredibly vulnerable and strapped. The upgrade 
must work, in other words, or we are disastrously hurt. Nonetheless, we are 
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until we can show you our users our new systems, worthy of increased support, 
and also until we can utilize the new systems in the tasks of processing that 
further support. It won't be too long now, though...before we both complere 
massively upgrading operations and make a massive plea for support to finance 
it all, and for more to come.

Meanwhile, the site continues to offer, as best we are currently able with 
technical features - navigation, presentation, and facilities - that are now 
multiple computer generations old, a wide range of materials addressing what is 
wrong in the world, and, more specifically to ZN'et's identity, what we would 
like as a new world instead, and what we can do about attaining it - vision and 

Among the six to ten articles we post daily, some are truly special, and here 
is one, an interview with Noam Chomskiy about matters of oppressive social 
relations, psychology, and class differences.


Responsibility and War Guilt
A Culture-Setting Intelligentsia
Noam Chomsky interviewed by  Gabriel Matthew Schivone  

The Responsibility of Intellectuals

GMS: Addressing a community of mostly students during a public forum at the 
steps of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1969, you expressed: 
"This particular community is a very relevant one to consider at a place like 
MIT because, of course, you're all free to enter this community-in fact, you're 
invited and encouraged to enter it. The community of technical intelligentsia, 
and weapons designers, and counterinsurgency experts, and pragmatic planners of 
an American empire is one that you have a great deal of inducement to become 
associated with. The inducements, in fact, are very real; their rewards in 
power, and affluence, and prestige and authority are quite significant." Let's 
start off talking about the significance of these inducements, on both a 
university and societal level. How crucial is it, in your view, that students 
particularly consider and understand this, as you describe, highly technocratic 
social order of the academic community and its function in society, that is, 
comparably to the more directly associated professional scholarship considering 

CHOMSKY: How important it is, to an individual, depends on what that 
individual's goals in life are. If the goals are to enrich yourself, gain 
privilege, do technically interesting work-in brief, if the goals are 
self-satisfaction-then these questions are of no particular relevance. If you 
care about the consequences of your actions, what's happening in the world, 
what the future will be like for your grandchildren and so on, then they're 
very crucial. So, it's a question of what choices people make.

GMS: What makes students a natural audience to speak to? And do you think it's 
worth 'speaking truth' to the professional scholarship as well or differently? 
Are there any short- or long-term possibilities here?  

I'm always uneasy about the concept of "speaking truth," as if we somehow know 
the truth and only have to enlighten others who have not risen to our elevated 
level. The search for truth is a cooperative, unending endeavor. We can, and 
should, engage in it to the extent we can and encourage others to do so as 
well, seeking to free ourselves from constraints imposed by coercive 
institutions, dogma, irrationality, excessive conformity and lack of initiative 
and imagination, and numerous other obstacles.  

As for possibilities, they are limited only by will and choice.  

Students are at a stage of their lives where these choices are most urgent and 
compelling, and when they also enjoy unusual, if not unique, freedom and 
opportunity to explore the choices available, to evaluate them, and to pursue 

GMS: In your view, what is it about the privileges within university education 
and academic scholarship which, as you assert in some of the things you've 
written, correlate with them a greater responsibility for catastrophic 
atrocities such as the Vietnam War or those in the Middle East in which the 
United States is now involved?

Well, there are really some moral truisms. One of them is that opportunity 
confers responsibility. If you have very limited opportunities, then you have 
limited responsibility for what you do. If you have substantial opportunity you 
have greater responsibility for what you do. I mean, that's kind of elementary, 
I don't know how it can be discussed.

And the people who we call 'intellectuals' are just those who happen to have 
substantial opportunity. They have privilege, they have resources, they have 
training. In our society, they have a high degree of freedom-not a hundred 
percent, but quite a lot-and that gives them a range of choices that they can 
pursue with a fair degree of freedom, and that hence simply confers 
responsibility for the predictable consequences of the choices they make.


The Rise of a Technical Intelligentsia

GMS: I think at this point it may do well for us to go over a bit the 
beginnings and evolution of the ideological currents which now prevail 
throughout modern social intellectual life in the U.S. Essentially, from where 
may we trace the development of this strong coterie of technical experts in the 
schools, and elsewhere, sometimes having been referred to as a 'bought' or 
'secular priesthood'?

Well, it really goes back to the latter-part of the nineteenth century, when 
there was substantial discussion-not just in the United States but in Europe, 
too-of what was then sometimes called 'a new class' of scientific 
intellectuals. In that period of time there was a level of knowledge and 
technical expertise accumulating that allowed a kind of managerial class of 
educated, trained people to have a greater share in decision-making and 
planning. It was thought that they were a new class displacing the aristocracy, 
the owners, political leaders and so on, and they could have a larger role-and 
of course they liked that idea.

Out of this group developed an ideology of technocratic planning. In industry 
it was called 'scientific management'. It developed in intellectual life with a 
concept of what was called a 'responsible class' of technocratic, serious 
intellectuals who could solve the world's problems rationally, and would have 
to be protected from the 'vulgar masses' who might interfere with them. And it 
goes right up until the present.

Just how realistic this is, is another question, but for the class of technical 
intellectuals, it's a very attractive conception that, 'We are the rational, 
intelligent people, and management and decision-making should be in our hands.' 

Actually, as I've pointed out in some of the things I've written, it's very 
close to Bolshevism. And, in fact, if you put side-by-side, say, statements by 
people like Robert McNamara and V.I. Lenin, it's strikingly similar. In both 
cases there's a conception of a vanguard of rational planners who know the 
direction that society ought to go and can make efficient decisions, and have 
to be allowed to do so without interference from, what one of them, Walter 
Lippmann, called the 'meddlesome and ignorant outsiders' , namely, the 
population, who just get in the way.

It's not an entirely new conception: it's just a new category of people. Two 
hundred years ago you didn't have an easily identifiable class of technical 
intellectuals, just generally educated people. But as scientific and technical 
progress increased there were people who felt they can appropriate it and 
become the proper managers of the society, in every domain. That, as I said, 
goes from scientific management in industry, to social and political control.

There are periods in history, for example, during the Kennedy years, when these 
ideas really flourished. There were, as they called themselves, 'the best and 
the brightest.' The 'smart guys' who could run everything if only they were 
allowed to; who could do things scientifically without people getting in their 

It's a pretty constant strain, and understandable. And it underlies the fear 
and dislike of democracy that runs through elite culture always, and very 
dramatically right now. It often correlates closely with posturing about love 
of democracy. As any reader of Orwell would expect, these two things tend to 
correlate. The more you hate democracy, the more you talk about how wonderful 
it is and how much you're dedicated to it. It's one of the clearer expressions 
of the visceral fear and dislike of democracy, and of allowing, again, going 
back to Lippmann, the 'ignorant and meddlesome outsiders' to get in our way. 
They have to be distracted and marginalized somehow while we can take care of 
the serious questions. 

Now, that's the basic strain. And you find it all the time, but increasingly in 
the modern period when, at least, claims to expertise become somewhat more 
plausible. Whether they're authentic or not is, again, a different question. 
But, the claims to expertise are very striking.  So, economists tell you, 'We 
know how to run the economy'; the political scientists tell you, 'We know how 
to run the world, and you keep out of it because you don't have special 
knowledge and training.'

When you look at it, the claims tend to erode pretty quickly. It's not quantum 
physics; there is, at least, a pretense, and sometimes, some justification for 
the claims.  But what matters for human life is, typically, well within the 
reach of the concerned person who is willing to undertake some effort.

GMS: Given the, albeit, self-proclaimed notion that this new class is entitled 
to decision-making, how close are they to actual policy, then?

My feeling is that they're nowhere near as powerful as they think they are. So, 
when, say, John Kenneth Galbraith wrote about the technocratic elite which is 
taking over the running of society-or when McNamara wrote about it, or 
others-there's a lot of illusion there. Meaning, they can gain positions of 
authority and decision-making when they act in the interests of those who 
really own and run the society. You can have people that are just as competent, 
or more competent, and who have conceptions of social and economic order that 
run counter to, say, corporate power, and they're not going to be in the 
planning sectors. So, to get into those planning sectors you first of all have 
to conform to the interests of the real concentrations of power. 

And, again, there are a lot of illusions about this-in the media, too. Tom 
Wicker is a famous example, one of the 'left commentators' of the New York 
Times. He would get very angry when critics would tell him he's conforming to 
power interests and that he's keeping within the doctrinal framework of the 
media, which goes back to their corporate structure and so on. And he would 
answer, very angrily-and correctly-that nobody tells him what to say. He writes 
anything he wants,-which is absolutely true. But if he wasn't writing the 
things he did he wouldn't have a column in the New York Times. 

That's the kind of thing that is very hard to perceive. People do not want-or 
often are not able-to perceive that they are conforming to external authority. 
They feel themselves to be very free-and indeed they are-as long as they 
conform. But power lies elsewhere. That's as old as history in the modern 
period. It's often very explicit. 

Adam Smith, for example, discussing England, quite interestingly pointed out 
that the merchants and manufacturers-the economic forces of his day-are the 
'principal architects of policy', and they make sure that their own interests 
are 'most peculiarly attended to', no matter how grievous the effect on others, 
including the people in England. And that's a good principle of statecraft, and 
social and economic planning, which runs pretty much to the present. When you 
get people with management and decision-making skills, they can enter into that 
system and they can make the actual decisions-within a framework that's set 
within the real concentrations of power. And now it's not the merchants and 
manufacturers of Adam Smith's day, it's the multinational corporations, 
financial institutions, and so on. But, stray too far beyond their concerns and 
you won't be the decision-maker.

It's not a mechanical phenomenon, but it's overwhelmingly true that the people 
who make it to decision-making positions (that is, what they think of as 
decision-making positions) are those who conform to the basic framework of the 
people who fundamentally own and run the society. That's why you have a certain 
choice of technocratic managers and not some other choice of people equally or 
better capable of carrying out policies but have different ideas.

GMS: What about degrees of responsibility and shared burdens of guilt on an 
individual level? What can we learn about how one views oneself often in 
positions of power or authority?

You almost never find anyone, whether it's in a weapons plant, or planning 
agency, or in corporate management, or almost anywhere, who says, 'I'm really a 
bad guy, and I just want to do things that benefit myself and my friends.'  
Almost invariably you get noble rhetoric like: 'We're working for the benefit 
of the people.' The corporate executive who is slaving for the benefit of the 
workers and community; the friendly banker who just wants to help everybody 
start their business; the political leader who's trying to bring freedom and 
justice to the world-and they probably all believe it. I'm not suggesting that 
they're lying. There's an array of routine justifications for whatever you're 
doing. And it's easy to believe them. It's very hard to look into the mirror 
and say, 'Yeah, that guy looking at me is a vicious criminal.' It's much easier 
to say, 'That guy looking at me is really very benign, self-sacrificing, and he 
has to do these things because it's for the benefit of everyone.' 

Or you get respected moralists like Reinhold Niebuhr, who was once called 'the 
theologian of the establishment'. And the reason is because he presented a 
framework which, essentially, justified just about anything they wanted to do. 
His thesis is dressed up in long words and so on (it's what you do if you're an 
intellectual). But what it came down to is that, 'Even if you try to do good, 
evil's going to come out of it; that's the paradox of grace'. -And that's 
wonderful for war criminals. 'We try to do good but evil necessarily comes out 
of it.' And it's influential. So, I don't think that people in decision-making 
positions are lying when they describe themselves as benevolent. -Or people 
working on more advanced nuclear weapons. Ask them what they're doing, they'll 
say: 'We're trying to preserve the peace of the world.' People who are devising 
military strategies that are massacring people, they'll say, 'Well, that's the 
cost you have to pay for freedom and justice', and so on.

But, we don't take those sentiments seriously when we hear them from enemies, 
say, from Stalinist commissars. They'll give you the same answers. But, we 
don't take that seriously because they can know what they're doing if they 
choose to. If they choose not to, that's their choice. If they choose to 
believe self-satisfying propaganda, that's their choice. But it doesn't change 
the moral responsibility. We understand that perfectly well with regard to 
others. It's very hard to apply the same reasoning to ourselves. 

In fact, one of the-maybe the most-elementary of moral principles is that of 
universality, that is, If something's right for me, it's right for you; if it's 
wrong for you, it's wrong for me. Any moral code that is even worth looking at 
has that at its core somehow. But that principle is overwhelmingly disregarded 
all the time. If you want to run through examples we can easily do it. Take, 
say, George W. Bush, since he happens to be president. If you apply the 
standards that we applied to Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, he'd be hanged. 
Is it an even conceivable possibility? It's not even discussable. Because we 
don't apply to ourselves the principles we apply to others.

There's a lot of talk about 'terror' and how awful it is. Whose terror? Our 
terror against them? I mean, is that considered reprehensible? No, it's 
considered highly moral; it's considered self-defense, and so on. Now, their 
terror against us, that's awful, and terrible, and so on.

But, to try to rise to the level of becoming a minimal moral agent, and just 
enter in the domain of moral discourse is very difficult. Because that means 
accepting the principle of universality. And you can experiment for yourself 
and see how often that's accepted, either in personal or political life. Very 

Looking at Nuremberg and the Culture of Torture

GMS: What about criminal responsibility and intellectuals? Nuremberg is an 
interesting precedent.

The Nuremberg case is a very interesting precedent. First of all, the Nuremberg 
trials-of all the tribunals that have taken place, from then until today-it is, 
I think, the most serious by far. But, nevertheless, it was very seriously 
flawed. And it was recognized to be. When Telford Taylor, the chief prosecutor, 
wrote about it, he recognized that it was flawed, and it was so for a number of 
fundamental reasons. For one thing, the Nazi war criminals were being tried for 
crimes that had not yet been declared to be crimes. So, it was ex post facto. 
'We're now declaring these things you did to be crimes.' That is already 

Secondly, the choice of what was considered a crime was based on a very 
explicit criterion, namely, denial of the principle of universality. In other 
words, something was called a crime at Nuremberg if they did it and we didn't 
do it. 

So, for example, the bombing of urban concentrations was not considered a 
crime.  The bombings of Tokyo, Dresden, and so on-those aren't crimes. Why? 
Because we did them. So, therefore, it's not a crime. In fact, Nazi war 
criminals who were charged were able to escape prosecution when they could show 
that the Americans and the British did the same thing they did. Admiral 
Doenitz, a submarine commander who was involved in all kinds of war crimes, 
called in the defense a high official in the British admiralty and, I think, 
Admiral Nimitz from the United States, who testified that, 'Yeah, that's the 
kind of thing we did.' And, therefore, they weren't sentenced for these crimes. 
Doenitz was absolved. And that's the way it ran through. Now, that's a very 
serious flaw. Nevertheless, of all the tribunals, that's the most serious one.

When Chief Justice Jackson, chief counsel for the prosecution, spoke to the 
tribunal and explained to them the importance of what they were doing, he said, 
to paraphrase, that: 'We are handing these defendants a poisoned chalice, and 
if we ever sip from it we must be subject to the same punishments, otherwise 
this whole trial is a farce.' Well, you can look at the history from then on, 
and we've sipped from the poisoned chalice many times, but it's never been 
considered a crime. So, that means we are saying that trial was a farce.

Interestingly, in Jackson's opening statement he claimed that the defense did 
not wish to incriminate the whole German populace from whence the defendants 
came, for the crimes they committed, but only the "planners and designers" of 
those crimes, "the inciters and leaders without whose evil architecture the 
world would not have been for so long scourged with the violence and 
lawlessness.of this terrible war."

That's correct. And that's another principle which we flatly reject. So, at 
Nuremberg, we weren't trying the people who threw Jews into crematoria; we were 
trying the leaders. When we ever have a trial for crimes it's of some low-level 
person-like a torturer from Abu Ghraib-not the people who were setting up the 
framework from which they operate. And we certainly don't try political leaders 
for the crime of aggression. That's out of the question. The invasion of Iraq 
was about as clear-cut a case of aggression than you can imagine. In fact, by 
the Nuremberg principles, if you read them carefully, the U.S. war against 
Nicaragua was a crime of aggression for which Ronald Reagan should have been 
tried. But, it's inconceivable; you can't even mention it in the West. And the 
reason is our radical denial of the most elementary moral truisms. We just 
flatly reject them. We don't even think we reject them, and that's even worse 
than rejecting them outright. 

I mean, if we were able to say to ourselves, 'Look, we are totally immoral, we 
don't accept elementary moral principles,' that would be a kind of respectable 
position in a certain way. But, when we sink to the level where we cannot even 
perceive that we're violating elementary moral principles and international 
law, that's pretty bad. But that's the nature of the intellectual culture-not 
just in the United States-but in powerful societies everywhere. 

GMS: You mentioned Doenitz escaping culpability for his crimes. Two who didn't 
escape punishment and were among the most severely punished at Nuremberg were 
Julius Streicher, an editor of a major newspaper, and-also an interesting 
example-Dr. Wolfram Sievers of the Ahnenerbe Society's Institute of Military 
Scientific Research, whose own crimes were traced back to the University of 
Strasbourg. Not the typical people prosecuted for international war crimes, it 
seems, given their civilian professions.

Yeah; and there's a justification for that, namely, those defendants could 
understand what they were doing. They could understand the consequences of the 
work that they were carrying out. But, of course, if we were to accept this 
awful principle of universality, that would have a pretty long reach-to 
journalists, university researchers, and so on.

GMS: Let me quote for you the mission statement of the Army Research Office. 
This "premier extramural" research agency of the Army is grounded upon 
"developing and exploiting innovative advances to insure the Nation's 
technological superiority."  It executes this mission "through conduct of an 
aggressive basic science research program on behalf of the Army so that 
cutting-edge scientific discoveries and the general store of scientific 
knowledge will be optimally used to develop and improve weapons systems that 
establish land-force dominance."

This is a pentagon office, and they're doing their job. In our system, the 
military is under civilian control. Civilians assign a certain task to the 
military: their job is to obey, and carry the role out, otherwise you quit. 
That's what it means to have a military under civilian control. So, you can't 
really blame them for their mission statement. They're doing what they're told 
to do by the civilian authorities. The civilian authorities are the culpable 
ones. If we don't like those policies (and I don't, and you don't), then we go 
back to those civilians who designed the framework and gave the orders. 

You can, as the Nuremberg precedents indicated, be charged with obeying illegal 
orders, but that's often a stretch. If a person is in a position of military 
command, they are sworn, in fact, to obey civilian orders, even if they don't 
like them. If you say they're really just criminal orders, then, yes, they can 
reject them, and get into trouble and so on. But this is just carrying out the 
function that they're ordered to carry out. So, we go straight back to the 
civilian authority and then to the general intellectual culture, which regards 
this as proper and legitimate. And now we're back to universities, newspapers, 
the centers of the doctrinal system.

GMS: It's just the forthright honesty of the mission statement which is also 
very striking, I think.

Well, it's like going to an armory and finding out they're making better guns. 
That's what they're supposed to do. Their orders are, 'Make this gun work 
better.', and so they're doing it. And, if they're honest, they'll say, 'Yeah, 
that's what we're doing; that's what the civilian authorities told us to do.'

At some point, people have to ask, 'Do I want to make a better gun?' That's 
where the Nuremberg issues arise. But, you really can't blame people very 
severely for carrying out the orders that they're told to carry out when 
there's nothing in the culture that tells them there's anything wrong with it. 
I mean, you have to be kind of like a moral hero to perceive it, to break out 
of the cultural framework and say, 'Look, what I'm doing is wrong.' Like 
somebody who deserts from the army because they think the war is wrong. That's 
not the place to assign guilt, I think. Just as at Nuremberg. As I said, they 
didn't try the SS guards who threw people into crematoria, at Nuremberg. They 
might have been tried elsewhere, but not at Nuremberg. 

GMS: But, in this case, the results of the ARO's mission statement in 
harvesting scholarly work for better weapons design, it's professors, scholars, 
researchers, scientific designers, etc., who have these choices to focus 
serious intellectual effort and to be so used for such ends, and who aren't 
acting necessarily from direct orders but are acting more out of freewill.

It's freewill, but don't forget that there's a general intellectual culture 
that raises no objection to this. 

Let's take the Iraq war. There's libraries of material arguing about the war, 
debating it, asking 'What should we do?', this and that, and the other thing. 
Now, try to find a sentence somewhere that says that 'carrying out a war of 
aggression is the supreme international crime, which differs from other war 
crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows' (paraphrasing from 
Nuremberg). Try to find that somewhere. -I mean, you can find it. I've written 
about it, and you can find a couple other dozen people who have written about 
it in the world. But is it part of the intellectual culture? Can you find it in 
a newspaper, or in a journal; in Congress; any public discourse; anything 
that's part of the general exchange of knowledge and ideas? I mean, do students 
study it in school? Do they have courses where they teach students that 'to 
carry out a war of aggression is the supreme international crime which 
encompasses all the evil that follows'?

So, for example, if sectarian warfare is a horrible atrocity, as it is, who's 
responsible? By the principles of Nuremberg, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, 
Rice-they're responsible for sectarian warfare because they carried out the 
supreme international crime which encompasses all the evil that follows. Try 
and find somebody who points that out. You can't. Because our dominant 
intellectual culture accepts as legitimate our crushing anybody we like.

And take Iran. Both political parties-and practically the whole press-accept it 
as legitimate and, in fact, honorable, that 'all options are on the table', 
presumably including nuclear weapons, to quote Hilary Clinton and everyone 
else. 'All options are on the table' means we threaten war. Well, there's 
something called the U.N. Charter, which outlaws 'the threat or use of force' 
in international affairs. Does anybody care? Actually, I saw one op-ed 
somewhere by Ray Takeyh, an Iran specialist close to the government, who 
pointed out that threats are serious violations of international law. But 
that's so rare that when you find it it's like finding a diamond in a pile of 
hay or something. It's not part of the culture. We're allowed to threaten 
anyone we want-and to attack anyone we want. And, when a person grows up and 
acts in a culture like that, they're culpable in a sense, but the culpability 
is much broader.

I was just reading a couple days ago a review of a new book by Steven Miles, a 
medical doctor and bioethicist, who ran through 35,000 pages of documents he 
got from the Freedom of Information Act on the torture in Abu Ghraib. And the 
question that concerned him is, 'What were the doctors doing during all of 
this?' All through those torture sessions there were doctors, nurses, 
behavioral scientists and others who were organizing them. What were they doing 
when this torture was going on? Well, you go through the detailed record and it 
turns out that they were designing and improving it. Just like Nazi doctors.

Robert Jay Lifton did a big study on Nazi doctors. He points out in connection 
with the Nazi doctors that, in a way, it's not those individual doctors who had 
the final guilt, it was a culture and a society which accepted torture and 
criminal activities as legitimate. The same is true with the tortures at Abu 
Ghraib. I mean, just to focus on them as if they're somehow terrible people is 
just a serious mistake. They're coming out of a culture that regards this as 
legitimate. Maybe there are some excesses you don't really do but torture in 
interrogation is considered legitimate. 

There's a big debate now on, 'Who's an enemy combatant?'; a big technical 
debate. Suppose we invade another country and we capture somebody who's 
defending the country against our invasion: what do you mean to call them an 
'enemy combatant'? If some country invaded the United States and let's say you 
were captured throwing a rock at one of the soldiers, would it be legitimate to 
send you to the equivalent of Guantanamo, and then have a debate about whether 
you're a 'lawful' or 'unlawful' combatant? The whole discussion is kind of, 
like, off in outer space somewhere. But, in a culture which accepts that we own 
and rule the world, it's reasonable. But, also, we should go back to the roots 
of the intellectual or moral culture, not just to the individuals directly 

GMS: As you mentioned before, whether students are taught serious moral 
principles: At my school, the University of Arizona, there are courses in 
bioethics-required ones, in fact, to hard scientific undergraduates (I took 
one, out of interest)- which mostly just discuss scenarios in terms of 
'slippery slopes' and hypothetical questions within certain bounds, and still 
none at all in the social sciences or humanities. Do you think there should be? 
Would that be beneficial?

If they were honest, yes. If they're honest they'd be talking about what we're 
talking about, and doing case studies. There's no point pontificating about 
high minded principles. That's easy. Nazi doctors could do that, too.  

Let's take a look at the cases and ask how the principles apply-to Vietnam; to 
El Salvador; to Iraq; to Palestine-just run through the cases and see how the 
principles apply to our own actions. That's what is of prime importance, and 
what is least discussed.

GMS: As a note to end on, there seems to be some very serious aberrations and 
defects in our society and our level of culture. How, in your view, might they 
be corrected and a new level of culture be established, say, one in which 
torture isn't accepted? (After all, slavery and child labor were each accepted 
for a long period of time and now are not.)

Your examples give the answer to the question, the only answer that has ever 
been known.  Slavery and child labor didn't become unacceptable by magic. It 
took hard, dedicated, courageous work by lots of people. The same is true of 
torture, which was once completely routine.  

If I remember correctly, the renowned Norwegian criminologist Nils Christie 
wrote somewhere that prisons began to proliferate in Norway in the early 19th 
century. They weren't much needed before, when the punishment for robbery could 
be driving a stake through the hand of the accused. Now it's perhaps the most 
civilized country on earth.  

There has been a gradual codification of constraints against torture, and they 
have had some effect, though only limited, even before the Bush regression to 
savagery. Alfred McCoy's work reviews that ugly history. Still, there is 
improvement, and there can be more if enough people are willing to undertake 
the efforts that led to large-scale rejection of slavery and child labor-still 
far from complete.


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