I had never heard of David Davis until today. He was the Tory shadow Home Secretary in Great Britain until he resigned, apparently taking a stand against the jettisoning of human rights in the name of “security.” The Guardian recently carried his statement on torture. Here is his concluding paragraph:
“The battle against terrorism is not just a fight for life; it is a battle of ideas and ideals. It is a battle between good and evil, between civilisation and barbarism. In that fight, we should never allow our standards to drop to those of our enemies. We cannot defend our civilisation by giving up the values of that civilisation. I hope the minister will today help me in ensuring that we find out what has gone wrong so we can return to defending those values once again.”
Some additional background on Davis may be found here and here. Again, I know little about Davis, but if he really is the man of principle he seems to be, he has my admiration. There don’t seem to be many like him around anymore.
He praises the United States in his statement for making a “clean breast” of its complicity in torture. I suspect that praise is undeserved. With respect to the issue of torture here, the conservatives on the right have become what one might charitably refer to as rabbit people. They have made a religion of “security,” jettisoning the principles our founding fathers stood for and embracing torture, apparently in the illusory belief that what goes around will never come around, all the while shouting slogans about “freedom” and “liberty,” by which they mean the right to do whatever they please themselves, combined with the right to violate the rights of others as they please if they happen to consider them “terrorists,” and due process of law be damned.
At the same time, it has now become quite clear that the equally loud shouting of similar slogans about “freedom” and “liberty” on the “progressive” left does not derive from any principled rejection of torture, indefinite imprisonment without trial, or respect for such outmoded concepts as habeas corpus or due process, but is best understood as merely a bludgeon with which they strike at their enemies on the right. The recent actions of the Obama Administration have made that quite clear. As far as the Guantanamo prisoners are concerned, principle has been thrown overboard in the name of political expedience. If I happen to see a reasoned defense of human rights on the “progressive” left that amounts to something more than pious posing and the usual “virtuous indignation,” I’ll be sure to make note of it on my blog. I haven’t seen anything of the sort for a long time.
The political scene in England is much the same, but it seems the dear old Mother Country has always produced more than her share of men and women of principle. One who was our friend at a time when we were most in need of friends was Mr. Burke. His statue now stands on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, and I hope the passerby will vouchsafe him a smile if they ever happen to go that way. Perhaps Mr. Davis is cast in a similar mold. May England produce many more like him.