Have you no sense of decency?

These words were uttered nearly 70 years ago by the pugnacious self-appointed tracker of communists named Joseph R. McCarthy. At the time, he served as the Republican Senator for Wisconsin, and his popularity was spiralling downhill.

In a desperate effort to boost his reputation, McCarthy resorted to spinning mischievous subterfuge. He made the humiliating and politically suicidal mistake of picking a fight with an institution that thrives on drawing out the pugilistic instincts of its employees and has in its fold lionhearted militants who are comfortable with staring at death, eyeball to eyeball. That’s the US Army.

At the height of the geopolitical cold war tensions between the US and the USSR, McCarthy accused this body, which was, and still is, revered by many Americans, of the unforgivable sin of harbouring communists. At the hearings that were broadcast to tens of millions on TV, in response to McCarthy’s accusation that the army’s junior counsel was a communist, the senior counsel named Joseph Welch made this punchy and unforgettable statement that ferociously blew up the remnants of McCarthy’s political capital: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or recklessness.” The attorney went on to hammer the final nail into McCarthy’s political career with these damning words: “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

Editor's Comment
Let the law take its course

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