The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Tortured ethics

June 22, 2006

In case anyone had any doubts about the moral relativism of certain segments of the right-wing anti-terror warrior-punditry, Wretched provides a useful reminder.

Sleep Management, Stress Positions, Change of Scenery, Dietary Manipulation, Environmental Manipulation and Sensory Deprivation have already been acknowledged as unacceptable treatment, even for the hard core of the enemy. But surely these tiny cells were as bad as anything the Nazis were capable of?

Well, gee, we aren’t as bad as the Nazis. The contemporary US also looks pretty good in comparison to Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, the Akazu, and lots of others. My conscience sure is clear now. Thanks!

The best part, though, is Wretched’s empirical analysis.

Five and four passengers in a 2006 Volkswagen GTI each get 18.84 and 23.1 cubic feet respectively, in both cases less than the volume available in the detainee cells. And you can neither stand nor lie down in the 2006 Volkswagen GTI either. How about the twenty inches in width, isn’t that inhumanly narrow? I thought so too, until I looked at airline seats. The standard economy airline seat is 17.8″ wide. Business class seats approach 20″ and more. My own swivel chair is 18″ wide. I measured it. Take out a ruler and measure your own chair if you are as incredulous as I was. For further comparison, consider the proposed A380 Airbus Standing Seat, in which short-distance passengers would travel literally lashed upright to their chairs.

In the next installment, I’m sure we’ll learn that waterboarding isn’t that bad because, you know, Wretched went to the pool the other day and held his breath underwater for a really long time.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.