Recently, I read a short story, “The Drug Addict and the Bomb” by Egyptian writer, Naguib Mahfuiz. The story, written decades ago—probably during the regime of King Farouk—features Ayyub, a 30-year-old Egyptian man stoned on drugs. A crowd of revolutionists erupts into the street where Ayyub sits drowsing. Soldiers appear chasing the demonstrators. One demonstrator strikes the officer in charge and runs off. The street clears of everyone but Ayyub who sits sleepily laughing at the scene. He is arrested and accused of striking the officer. While he protests his innocence, a bomb explodes a few blocks away. Ayyub refuses to confess, is beaten and taken to the police station where he is also accused of exploding the bomb. Ayyub is beaten and tortured to extract a confession, then sentenced to prison.
This story seemed eerily familiar as I recalled the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the round up of any males in the areas where foreign troops invaded. But this time, it wasn’t the henchmen of a corrupt dictator casting a broad net and demanding confessions and information from anyone caught in the fray. This time it was our country and our allies who beat and tortured to coerce confessions or information and then detained prisoners without charge for years at Guantanamo. The photos of American soldiers humiliating and torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other prisons followed as we pursued the Iraq War. Now we have WikiLeaks documenting vile, disgusting torture our Iraqi allies perpetrated on detainees while Americans looked on and did nothing.
America has always stood for fighting against tyranny and oppression and for freedom and human dignity. If we adopt the tactics of the enemy—what are we fighting for? Maybe it’s not the economy that is depressing Americans. Maybe it’s our loss of the moral high ground.