Friday, January 21, 2005
Inaugural address transcript (exclusive!)
During the 2004 campaign, many of us on the liberal left realized that the election was-- and, around the world, would surely be regarded as-- a referendum on torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. The Daily Brew put it best, in a classic post that began like so:
Whether Republicans like it or not, if George Bush is elected in the fall, the entire world will view the election as American approval of the torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. It might not be fair, it might not be reasonable, but it is nevertheless reality.
Apologies, prosecutions, firings and courts martial will not be enough to expunge the stain this scandal has placed on the honor of the United States. The pictures are simply too graphic. The abuses are simply too horrible. If George Bush is elected President, the entire world will view the election, at a minimum, as tacit approval of these events.
Well, let it not be said that George Bush walked away from this argument! I didn’t listen to his Second Inaugural Address yesterday-- I had more important things to do, like cleaning up after a sick dog-- but I got a hold of the transcript this morning, and I have to give the man credit: when he takes a stand on something, he does not back down. If there’s torture on his watch, he’s not going to blink it away. On the contrary. These excerpts alone should put some steel in your spine:
There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment and expose the pretensions of tyrants. And that is the force of human torture.
America’s influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in torture’s cause.
Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of torture—though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of torture ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Torture will come to those who love it.
Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world: When you stand for torture, we will stand with you.
We have essential work at home—the unfinished work of American torture. In a world moving toward torture, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of torture.
From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication, the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few. Did our generation advance the cause of torture?
We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of torture. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction set by torture and the author of torture.
America, in this young century, proclaims torture throughout all the world and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength—tested, but not weary—we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of torture.
May God bless you, and may he watch over the United States of America.
Interestingly, this was not the first time an inaugural address mentioned torture. As Presidential historian Joseph Ellis pointed out, that distinction belongs to William Henry Harrison, for his famous (though muttered) closing line, “By Heaven, I wish I could torture the scoundrel who scheduled this thing outdoors.” But it is very clearly the most emphatic and ringing endorsement of torture in our history.
Well, we can’t accuse the guy of hypocrisy now. This is one straight shooter we’re dealing with, folks. What you see is what you get! And my guess is that you’ll probably get it in a sensitive area.