Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Secret's Out

The Leader of the Free World® yesterday admitted the existence of CIA secret prisons around the world, not that the admission was accompanied by a mea culpa of any sort, nor even that Bush felt forced to disclose this under pressure from the media. Rather than see it as a commendable act of honesty to admit something that the world has already known for the past two years, I see it as a disturbing precedent, an opening onto a shady world drawn up by Bush's neocon advisors, in which soon everything, torture included, will be seen as acceptable and part-and-parcel of 'the world we live in today.'

The great Slavoj Žižek wrote last year that those right-wing intellectuals (legal scholars in the main) that defend 'a debate on torture' are more dangerous than those that advocate torture outright. These defenders of the 'debate' usually like to couch it in terms of a 'ticking bomb scenario', a spurious and improbable situation. Žižek's argument is that allowing the debate breaks down a barrier that must be maintained at all cost: against the idea that torture can be justified in certain situations. Once this barrier is gone, anything goes. The White House's admission yesterday can be viewed in the same light: once it's out in the open, CIA prisons can flourish everywhere. It's just another way of turning the clock back. Speaking of clocks Žižek had this to say about the worrying tendency of the TV show 24 to soft-soap the issue of torture, something that no other writer, be they on the left or the right, has pointed out. Recommended reading.