American Notes for General Circulation

If you’re ready to move on from the general exhuberance of the New Year I can offer nothing more sobering than J.M. Tyree’s thoughtful, if devastating year-end reflection on a year that included Abu Graib.

Here’s a sample:

It is not easy to come to grips with the moral despair induced by the knowledge that one’s government is engaged in torture. . . . This is all, in a strict sense, beyond belief, and yet we are in the puzzling position of watching it happening and being powerless to stop it. As another Russian writer said, man can get used to anything – the beast. One is charged with not getting used to this and not giving in to the temptation to pretend that everything is operating according to the normal rules. The United States is now caught up in a hallucinatory fog, in which the one thing that cannot be admitted is that the attacks of September 11 succeeded in driving the country insane.