The other day a journalist friend of mine in Washington got a phone call from a colleague in South America. "How's it feel to be a fellow citizen of the Third World?" my friend's friend asked.
"What?" said my friend.
"You know," said the Latin reporter, "the new government gets in office, the old government goes to jail."
The caller was referring, of course, to the prosecution--or threatened prosecution or mooted prosecution or proposal for prosecution to be publicly disavowed but tacitly permitted to go forward--of six Bush administration officials involved with the legal issues concerning "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Note that Attorney General Eric Holder and assorted Obama allies and ilk have been picking on people of whom you've mostly never heard. Aside from former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, it is unknown notables who are suffering besmirchment, sabotage, shredding, and wreckage of their characters, careers, reputations, and personal lives. John Yoo was a lawyer at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Jay Bybee was in charge of that office. Douglas Feith was an undersecretary of defense. William Haynes was the Defense Department's general counsel. And David Addington was the vice president's chief of staff.
The targets of calumny do not include any people who actually employed enhanced interrogation techniques. No CIA agents or agency contractors are on the black list. Of course not. It's beneath the dignity of Dianne Feinstein to have to get down on her knees every morning and look under her Prius to see if there's an IED from The Firm.
Nor has there been proscription of the political leaders who decreed how Guantánamo miscreants and associate miscreants were to be questioned. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney aren't threatened with legal action, not even by lunatic Iberian jurist Balthasar Garzón. (I received a post-cocktail hour email from a redneck pal: "Hope Don Greaser tries to serve the subpoenas in person. Body mount of Spanish judge in full plumage sure would dress up my game room.") Indicting the top members of the ousted Republican government would attract attention from the wrong people--regular people. Public opinionmakers are vehement in their fastidiously ethical support of the Democratic party's stand on anti-cruelty to terrorists. Public opinion is not so certain. Broad polling might uncover opinions to the effect of, "Water-boarding? What's with water-boarding. How about kerosene-boarding!"
The Democrats know--as they knew during Iran-contra and the Valerie Plame kerfuffle--that it's best to steer clear of both the chiefs and the Indians and hang obscure go-betweens. (Or, as is the American way, crush them to death beneath legal bills.)
Do Democrats really have a conscience about torture? They've been loud enough with their protests when Nancy Pelosi is tortured in the press. But to judge by the nasty sneak of a lying, conniving, mendacious piece of powergrubbing vote trash that is the speaker of the House of Representatives, the Democrats are no more virtuous than the rest of us.
Torture is an evil thing. There are, however, many tortured people in the world outside Guantánamo Bay. (Some are right outside, in Cuba.) These people are innocent of any wrongdoing or suspicion of wrongdoing or knowledge of wrong-doers or even of capacity to do wrong. Infants, the aged, the infirm are tormented, racked, and scourged from Sri Lanka to Belarus, from Harare to Port-au-Prince. Thanks to perversion of political power and idiocy of collectivist thinking a full billion of the world's people are living on less than $1 a day. Plaintively asking if there's any food is an enhanced interrogative indeed. Mistreatment of al Qaeda members and their friends and hangers-on is something I number among my moral concerns. But it's number 1,000,000,001.
The Democrats aren't raising the torture issue because they want to make the United States into a better place. They're raising the torture issue because they want to make the United States into Venezuela del Norte. The leaders of the Democratic party yearn to be like Hugo Chávez or Manuel Noriega, and, frankly, they've got the looks for it.
I don't mind America becoming a Third World country. The weather is better in the Third World than it is where I live in New Hampshire. And household help will be much cheaper. Does Carl Levin do windows? At my hacienda he won't have much choice. The troubled economy will soon be a thing of the past. Once we've got Third World-style full-blown business and government corruption, there won't be an economy. There will be, however, plenty of money after Beijing hauls away all our coal, oil, uranium, bourbon, and other natural resources that China lacks. Best of all, the GOP has a serious incentive to rebuild itself as a party and score some victories at the ballot box. Nothing motivates like "Win or Die."
And we will win. The Republicans will be back like Danny Ortega is back in Nicaragua--because this is the Third World. When we return to power I'm sure you Democrats will understand our having a little fun of the enhanced interrogation kind with some midlevel members of the Obama administration. (The ex-president himself and Michelle and the kids will be pleasantly ensconced in Cap d'Antibes, as befits a Third World former head of state.) On a sad note, there'll be no last cigarette as the blindfold is put in place. The political rule of developing nations is plus ça change . . . so we'll leave many Democratic programs in place--fastidiously ethical anti-tobacco legislation for example. It will be a smoke-free firing squad.
Now to pick our first victim of 2012. (Sooner, if Attorney General Holder orders the Guantánamo detainees to be tried in the District of Columbia night court and they get less time than Marion Barry.) I say Rahm Emanuel. Not just because he isn't important and nobody likes him, but because he's the flunky in the Obama White House who's already chosen his famous last words: Never let a crisis go to waste.
P.J. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.