A Taste of Salt and Blood

Recently, people who lie for a living were shocked, shocked to find that the CIA has been engaging in a bit of torture in order to procure information from captured terrorists.

Life imitates art. DC has looked quite a bit like Rick’s Cafe the past week.

All of a sudden, the schemers and the sociopaths have been forced to feign horror as they engage in their moral posturing over who is most aghast at the revelations that some very bad things were done in the name of national security. How could we have known that this would come to pass? Who ever could have predicted that people do not act like perfect angels when they are under the impression that everything they love is threatened by evil people who cannot be reasoned with nor stopped by any other means except force?

Since, of course, no one saw this coming and everybody was absolutely shocked by this horrifying and disturbing revelation that no one at all, not even some kind of super-genius, could have predicted, the 525 pages that were released of the roughly 6,000-page report have caused quite a stir.

All this furor for less than 9% of the full report. It does make one wonder what sort of juicy details are in the other 5,475 pages…

There is likely nothing further of interest. Still, a man can wonder, and lying by omission is one of the oldest tricks in the book…

People say this could never have happened in the United States that they know and love. I guess they must be talking about a different place than the United States I know. The United States of America that I know is a quasi-police-state in the midst of a self-destructive cultural revolution fueled by propagandist info-tainment and increasing hostilities among its disparate factions. It is a fracturing cyberpunk dystopia that shows as much concern for its own citizens as it does for the enemies it fights abroad, both the real and the created.

Well, at it’s worst, at least. At it’s best, it is still a land of magnificent privilege and opportunity in which a well-off person can enjoy a standard of living beyond the wildest fantasies of most people in the world. It is a land in which an intelligent young person can apply their talents in such a way as to rake in an inordinate bounty of material resources. The education system may have shifted away from its stated goal of providing an unmatched education in favor of theocratic indoctrination of a most secular kind, but the opportunity to derive a world-class education (especially if one is able to read into what is useful and what is not) is still very much alive, though it does take a significant degree of auto-didactism to be of any real value. In short, this is still a country full of opportunities for a young man of intelligence and ambition to develop his talents while enjoying a very high standard of living.

Yes, there are hurdles to be overcome, social waters with dangerous undercurrents to navigate, and a whole host of challenges to be faced. This will be the case in any time and in any place. The shibboleths may change, but the need to speak them never does.

Neoreactionaries tend to focus on the bad because that’s just generally our thing. We tend to be a melancholic lot, as is often the case for those who take both pleasure and solace in quiet reflection.

But as I have stated before, sometimes it’s best to keep this all in perspective. Yes, the US really is a society in decline, no longer capable of providing the same standard of living nor accomplishing the breath-taking feats it once did. It is plagued by the same conflicts and tribulations that afflict all societies that have reached for the heights of human accomplishment, but though the rough be upon us, the diamonds have not yet all vanished. It is foolish to think they will be there in 30 years and it is foolish to think they have all vanished.

It is easy to bemoan what has been lost and wished for a simpler time. How will you ever get it if you cannot find a way to wring what you want out of this time? If you cannot master this world and overcome the aspects of it that challenge you the most, you don’t deserve the world that you dream of.

But I digress. Moving back to the subject of torture, I think there have been a few clear and insightful remarks made on the subject. Scharlach and Vox Day both have important points to make, for instance, and The Right Stuff put things in perspective in their own blunt way (you will note that these three opinions differ significantly from each other, which is half the point).

Pundits and other people who are paid to feign outrage are conveniently denying this, but most of the “shocking details” of this report have been known for years, and a good chunk of the rest could be logically inferred. The current haranguing is less an act of self-reflection and more a struggle session, with overblown media hysteria demanding the government kowtow and decry its sins.

Funny how God may be dead but we confess nonetheless.

Torture makes a difference in only a very small number of cases. Torture is most effective when your reputation for indulging in it is so brutal and so chilling that captured prisoners trip over themselves to spill their guts for fear of being subject to your legendary interrogation techniques (as was the case with the Soviets during World War Two). If you aren’t willing to go that far, don’t bother. Claim the moral high ground and hold it.

It’s easy to be an amoral pragmatist. All you need is cunning and a willingness to get your hands dirty. It is much harder to abide by the values you claim to stand for, because sooner or later, there will come a time when those values are tested and it will require great sacrifice on your part to uphold them. That means being willing to be hoisted on your own petard. That means knowingly suffering a great deal of pain. That means being willing to lose when maybe you could have won.

The war against Islamic terrorism was a test. We failed.

We were not strong enough to live up to the moral standards that we so pride ourselves on. We were not savage enough to kill and torture our way to uncontested peace. We were not resolved enough to follow the British example and rule as an Imperial power for hundreds of years. Any one of these traits could have brought us the victory, and we couldn’t even bring ourselves to be a single one.

We came to the fork in the road, and we fucked ourselves with it.

That is the America that the children of 9/11 know.



7 thoughts on “A Taste of Salt and Blood

  1. walderschmidt 12/11/2014 / 10:52 PM

    And we didn’t even spit on that fork for lube.


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