We are often told that history repeats itself. But we usually don't notice the recurring cycle of human affairs until it reaches its final point. As the George W. Bush regimen approaches its conclusion, we are reminded of other times and governments that tried to benefit from torture. In almost every case, the assertion of inhumane abuse was the reason for a fall from prosperity and power.
The White House now wants its systemic torture photos to be forgotten. But the anniversary of the Abu Graib prison suffering will probably become an annual day of observation, rekindling unpleasant feelings for many generations to come.
As this human cycle approaches a finish, history books tell us to expect a purge or carthasis. In this case, the US military will probably be pitted against its civilian leadership. Pentagon officers will leak more photos to rebuff and humiliate the neoconservatives they blame for mismanaging the war on terrorism. When the public finally becomes aware of the high tensions between officers and civilian chiefs, they will also suddenly sense that even Americans might be tortured -- in a lurid act of purging.
The cycle of historicism we must learn from: It happened in Germany, Chile, Greece, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, to mention only a few recent instances. Without exception, a political body that threatens torture against its own countrymen quickly looses support of the populace and is removed from power.