'Absolutely Irrelevant Torture'
By Diane Harvey
The following is a quote from David D. Perlmutter, a historian of war and media at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge:
"The torture pictures are absolutely irrelevant," said Perlmutter, the author of "Visions of War: Picturing Warfare from the Stone Age to the Cyberage."
"Americans care about American soldiers, and only journalistic and political and academic elites fret about pictures of collateral damage," he said. "... If you start talking to the public, you'll find people sympathizing with the soldiers."
Dr. Perlmutter has not personally signed the Geneva Conventions, of course. Apparently he has never even heard of them. His wonderful indifference to torture, when applied to other people, merely indicates a spectacular degree of personal callousness. One cannot imagine he would remain so entirely unmoved by human suffering if he found his own body at the receiving end of the electrodes.
His very strange idea is that supporting our soldiers must mean remaining indifferent to anything that individuals might conceivably perpetrate, however monstrous. According to this bizarre logic, he wouldn't be disturbed if his closest colleagues were discovered to be serial murderers. We won't suppose they actually are. But still, one does wonder just how he managed to become a vociferous exponent of the rights of torturers.
In any case, he makes it very clear that he believes he is speaking for Americans when he casually dismisses the reality of the most repugnant of acts, vigorously repudiated by every civilized nation and person on earth. According to Dr. Perlmutter, the American public does not give a damn about its own soldiers indulging in psychopathic behavior. He states that only the "elites" bother about such unimportant "collateral damage" as criminally humiliated, ravaged and murdered human beings. He is a self-appointed spokesman for the concept that even the most despicable crime somehow becomes excusable if the person who does it is wearing your team uniform. But it is not very wise to naively trumpet being the proud possessor of such a markedly underdeveloped moral sense. By doing so, he only reveals that no redeeming spirit of reason has ever so much as breathed on the savage ego of Dr. Perlmutter.
Aggressively promoting the unrepentant sentiments of sadism, Dr. Perlmutter presumes that the average American has kicked over all traces of civilization, and the totality of Judeo-Christian and all other moral history. His words more than imply that Americans care nothing at all for the basic message of any religion or spiritual practice. The picture he presents is of a nation of individuals with no relation to God whatsoever, or even to common human standards of acceptable behavior. Such an astonishing distortion tells us a great deal about Dr. Perlmutter, but nothing about us. One must conclude that he believes we all must accept extremes of savagery only because he himself enthusiastically embraces these qualities. Perhaps Dr. Perlmutter has reincarnated in our time and place directly from the rigors of the Cretaceous, and has not had time yet to discover an ethically viable mindset for the 21st Century. Or perhaps he is just what he appears to be: an ardent, sincerely vicious throwback, willfully recapitulating some long-lost geological moment between crawling out of the sea and putting on a necktie.
A reasonable response to the rapacious brutality of Dr. Perlmutter's remarks might be a pang of compassion for his humiliating evolutionary predicament. After all, the lack of even a rudimentary conscience in this day and age is a stunning deficiency to boast about in public. But at least in this sorry spectacle we are presented with yet another excellent reminder of what the human race is up against- everywhere on Earth, without exception. The belligerent bellows that serve as the news of our times arise from a multitude of outwardly warring psyches. But the only differences among them are found in the superficialities of costumes, social position, and language. The passionately backward are all kindred spirits under the skin, no matter what their origin, sense of identity, or species of belief system. They are all thriving on the same intoxicating fumes of ancient hatred and separatism, emanating from identical antediluvian miasmas. The task of the long-suffering conscious element in humanity is clear: to resolutely drain the primordial psychological swamps wherever they are found. The worst aspects of the human subconscious have to be dredged up into the light of day, where they can undergo the merciful process of mummification in the open air. Because the terrifying alternative is that these absolutely irrelevant embodiments of the lowest forms of human life might otherwise eventually succeed in reducing our entire world to the utter desolation of their natural habitat.
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Original MSNBC article of April 30, 2004,