‘We’ve sent a message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists. We are… a nation that upholds values and standards of behaviour and treatment of all people, no matter how evil or bad they are. And I think that this will help us enormously in winning the war for the hearts and minds of people throughout the world.’
– Senator John McCain, while sitting next to President George W Bush.
It’s good to see that America’s liberal institutions are asserting themselves and beginning to win the war on terror (albeit too slowly). Bush has been forced to accept a ban on torture. That the issue ever arose is damning and that it had to be fought for is shaming.
US intervention in Iraq was only ever partly motivated by the desire to rid the country of despotism, but that’s how it was sold and it was a promise that made the war supportable. I don’t think anyone could have forecast how easily US led forces would be corrupted and engage in tactics that leave any claim to a liberal and superior value system in tatters. But we are where we are. And perhaps victories like this and the law lords’ decision on evidence gained by torture mean the war on terror can be won. Yet given all that the world has witnessed, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that non-Westerners will be convinced that ours is a society whose values and political system are worth aspiring to.