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"The Return of Torquemada"

Tomás de Torquemada [1420-1498] was a Spaniard, appointed by the pope to be the first Chief Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition, in the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. He formulated the procedures by which heretics were examined, and executed those procedures with such assiduous efficiency that his name is now a code-word for "torturer."

Linda Chavez writes that we're supposed to be glad that the reincarnation of Torquemada, Alberto Gonzales, has been appointed to be our next Attorney General. The chief law enforcement officer will be someone who thinks it's just fine for the government to torture people it doesn't like. And we're supposed to accept that, because of the ethnic origin of the torturer!

Where does the Acting President find these people? Chicanos who actively endorse torture -- blacks who do not believe that slavery created a debt that still requires compensation -- women who oppose a woman's right to be in charge of her own reproductive system -- it is quite astonishing that he can find members of these oppressed groups who will change sides and join in with the oppressors. Linda Chavez is one of them, or would be, if only he would choose her, again. The nanny business ruined the first call.

Evidently there is some kind of limit to the outrageousness of his nominations. But still, Chavez scribbles for him, in desperation, as if the Acting President believed in fairness and equality, not to mention simple honesty.

For me, honesty is becoming the question of the day. The Senators asked our modern-day Torquemada, point-blank, if he believed in torture. He said flatly, "No." But it was a lie. His previous legal work on the question of torture and the quaint provisions of the Geneva Convention all indicated clearly that he does believe in torture.

Lying has become the hallmark of this administration and its fundamentalist supporters. Conventional wisdom has it that "religion," left deliberately undefined, makes people honest. A look at the evidence indicates that it's not so. Those fundamentalists will lie at the slightest provocation. Remember Oliver North? Remember Swaggart and Falwell and Robertson and Baaker. They all lie, whenever they feel like it.

One of the Ten Commandments forbids it. Jesus forbade it: "Let your yes be yes and your no be no." Don't come with exceptions, loopholes, excuses, diversions or rhetorical questions, like, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Tell it straight, or shut up -- but no lying. This gang never learned that, or perhaps did learn it but then they got over it, when the stakes became bigger.

The best sign in our recent anti-inauguration demonstration march was one which showed the Acting President, with that Alfred E. Neuman memorial smirk on his face, with the one-word caption, "Liar!"

If you don't want Torquemada to be Attorney General, speak up and let everyone know. Silence about such a matter will be a form of lying -- the most common one used. It's time we became indignant about all the lying, spoken and unspoken.

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Copyright © 2005 Harry Willson

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