No matter how you ask the question, most people — right-wing, left-wing, atheist, religious — will tell you that they don’t want to die like Terri Schiavo. That is, they don’t want to spend their final days in a hospital, tied up to a machine, unable to feed themselves, unable to speak.
This week I had planned to write a column about Sinn Fein, the political front organization for the Irish Republican Army, whose leaders have recently been linked to acts of murder and grand larceny.
For the record, let me begin by repeating a few quotes from John Bolton, newly nominated as ambassador to the United Nations, just so that no one can accuse me of naivete.
From a general, human-interest perspective, I suppose it is exciting when the Harvard faculty gangs up on the Harvard president, as the Harvard faculty ganged up on Larry Summers yesterday — illustrating again the old saw about the emotions in academic battles running so high precisely because the stakes are so low.
For the past 15 years, every time I’ve returned to Warsaw — a city I first saw shrouded in the gloom of martial law — I’ve been surprised anew by the scale of the changes. Every year there are more new buildings and more small businesses.
When Kurt Waldheim, a former U.N. secretary general, was found in 1986 to have served in a German military unit that may have committed wartime atrocities, his reputation was ruined. Although elected president of Austria, he was forbidden to visit the United States. Shunned by the international community, he eventually dropped out of politics.
“We were blindfolded and our hands were tied behind our backs. . . . They made me sit on the floor. When I tried to speak, they said ‘Are you here to talk? Shut up, you are a terrorist. Just confess to being one of the Mahdi Army.’ They poured cold water over me and …
It is 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. You are the president of the United States, or the chancellor of Germany, or the British prime minister. You switch on the news and learn that three members of a Turkish family, recently arrived in Munich, have been diagnosed with smallpox.
Just for a moment, let’s pretend that there is no moral, legal or constitutional problem with torture. Let’s also imagine a clear-cut case: a terrorist who knows where bombs are about to explode in Iraq. To stop him, it seems that a wide range of Americans would be prepared to endorse “cruel and unusual” methods.
During the past eight months there have been many news cycles, many front-page stories, many events. There have been elections. There have been hurricanes and tidal waves. Nevertheless, in the grand scheme of things, eight months is not a very long time.