1. trans. To corrupt the morals or moral principles of; to deprave or pervert morally.
The Senate approved legislation this evening governing the interrogation and trials of terror suspects, establishing far-reaching new rules in the definition of who may be held and how they should be treated. … The legislation … strips detainees of a habeas corpus right to challenge their detentions in court and broadly defines what kind of treatment of detainees is prosecutable as a war crime. … The legislation broadens the definition of enemy combatants beyond the traditional definition used in wartime, to include noncitizens living legally in this country as well as those in foreign countries, and also anyone determined to be an enemy combatant under criteria defined by the president or secretary of defense. It strips detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of a habeas right to challenge their detention in court, relying instead on procedures known as combatant status review trials, which have looser rules of evidence than the courts. It allows evidence seized in this country or abroad to be taken without a search warrant.
b. To deprive (a thing) of its moral influence or effectiveness.
Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws – while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser. … Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration. They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
2. To lower or destroy the power of bearing up against dangers, fatigue, or difficulties (F. le moral: see MORALE). Hence demoralized, demoralizing ppl. adjs.
But this detainee bill was, I think, the ballgame. Partly for what it is: in addition to formally disavowing all that was best about our legal system and ideals in the name of “a little security,” it amounts to the Burying the Executive’s Mistakes Act of 2006. With “aggressive interrogations” and without habeas corpus, the law means never having to say you’re sorry if you happen to be President when it passes. The ruling party’s junior auxiliary in the House has already added language broadening those subject to the bill to include US citizens providing “material support” to the nation’s enemies. (On one plausible readong, anyone a military tribunal declares an “unlawful enemy combatant” by any criterion it chooses to apply.) One does not have to read too far into the ruling party’s partisan media to understand that, for them, “the traitors” include all but the tamest members of the nominal opposition. … But the other reason the detainee bill was the Democratic Party’s last shot at remaining a credible force in its own right is what its (non)response to the bill represents: forfeiting the chance to present any meaningful divergence from the precepts of the national-security state as defined by the Republicans. It is now official United States policy that our security depends on hiding people away and torturing them, said decision to be made in secret without review. This is what the United States says about who we are.
Democrats have been voting for stuff I dislike for as long as I’ve been voting for Democrats, but I have to say that their poll-tested cowardice on the detainee bill over the past couple of weeks has been about as bad as anything I can remember. And what makes it worse is that not only is it craven, it’s probably politically stupid as well.
By the way, “demoralize” in the sense of “to deprive a thing of its moral influence” or “to corrupt the moral principles of” does not mean “to transform life as we know it into an ongoing Orwellian nightmare where Americans are rounded up and ‘disappeared’ in huge numbers.” Neither does it mean “to rip the fabric of everyday life to shreds so that nothing is as it was before.” A compromise here, an exception there. What was the country supposed to be about, again? How was it supposed to differ from others? Remind me, someone.