What do the Nazi Gestapo, the South African police during Apartheid, the Japanese military during World War II, Spanish "Grand Inquisitor" Tomas de Torquemada, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Senator Joe Lieberman, and Marc Levin have in common? The answer is that they were/are all practitioners of or apologists for forms of water torture that have long been illegal under U.S. and international law. (The U.S. executed Japanese soldiers during World War II for the war crime of water torture). In the U.S. in recent years it has been called "water boarding."
These parallels were brought to mind recently while re-reading F.A. Hayek’s classic, The Road to Serfdom. In Chapter 10, entitled "Why the Worst Get to the Top," Hayek wrote that in a totalitarian state (or one that is becoming more so), "to be a useful assistant in the running of a totalitarian state, it is not enough that a man should be prepared to accept specious justification of vile deeds; he must himself be prepared actively to break every moral rule he has ever known . . ." Moreover, he "must be completely unprincipled and literally capable of everything." Those who aspire to "leading positions" in "the totalitarian machine," wrote Hayek, will come to understand that "there will be special opportunities for the ruthless and unscrupulous" where one can prosper by practicing "cruelty and intimidation, deliberate deception and spying . . ." Hayek was referring to the fascist and socialist regimes of the 1940s, but his words also seem increasingly descriptive of contemporary American government with its taser-armed rogue police thugs, its TSA gropers and perverts, its constant bombardment of the public with lies about just about everything, and its spy cameras on street corners, in satellites, drones, warrantless wiretaps, internet spying, and worse.