On this evening of the Olympic opening ceremonies, with tenuous dreams of One World in the air, I found myself listening to Jane Mayer discuss her new book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals. Mayer is a reporter for the New Yorker, and her book has won wide acclaim for its thoroughness in documenting the dark corners into which the US has ventured in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
In brief: We've justified torture even in the face of overwhelming evidence that it won't yield any useful evidence that would prevent additional attacks, and sought to give legal cover to the President to do absolutely anything he pleases in the name of keeping us safe. John Yoo, who is currently on the law faculty at UC Berkeley but used to work for the Department of Justice, was a major legal enabler of this shameful approach. Hopefully the next President (either Obama or McCain) will be able to repair some of the deep damage done to our moral standing in the world.
It's always dicey to attend such events in Berkeley, where activists come to roost. Mayer handled the crowd very well--on multiple occasions she mentioned that she wanted to write a book that would stand the test of history rather than a mere political screed. Many people would have preferred a screed, but she offered and defended investigative journalism instead. That was refreshing.