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David Brothers on Captain America's cowardly endorsement of torture

A lot of people are swearing off Warren Ellis over this.

4thletter! -- “america is now blood and tears instead of milk and honey” [Secret Avengers 21]



Torture. It’s been a big deal over the past few years. The US has engaged in torture for ages, from slavery to the Cold War, but now that it’s public, it’s a lot harder to ignore. The behavior of the US government in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere has been deplorable on that front. Torture is a pretty simple concept. Even a child can define it. “I am going to hurt you until you give me what I want.”

But at some point, the government redefined it so that things like making someone think they’re drowning don’t count as torture. Waterboarding is something that Japanese soldiers were hanged for back in the World War II days, was defined as illegal in the Vietnam War, was used in apartheid South Africa on political prisoners, and was a favored tactic of both the Khmer Rouge (who murdered over a million people for unbelievably stupid and petty reasons) and Pinochet’s Chile.

Waterboarding, torture in general really, is indefensible, but the defense usually involves the words “necessity” and “protection” and other scaremongering ideas. We have to hurt them before they can hurt us.

If there is any one thing that it is important that 2012 America should be better than, it’s torture. It is an actual evil, and people who engage in it have no right to call themselves good people. Being better is about being better, not lowering yourself to the level of Pol Pot or Augusto Pinochet because you’re afraid of someone or something. Being better is about finding better ways to solve problems. Being better is about not hurting unarmed, defenseless men and women. Torture is vile.

“I don’t believe in torture. It’s ugly, dishonorable, and unreliable. So I’m going to let my colleagues do it.”

And here we meet the 2012 Captain America. He’s the antithesis of the Captain America that I enjoy reading about. He’s exactly what America should stand against. He’s a coward. This isn’t a momentary lapse in judgment. This is a man who knows better, who explains that he knows better even as he goes against what he believes, turns his back in the face of actual evil. He allows the existence of evil because it is convenient, which may well be worse than the evil itself.