Monday, April 11, 2011

Torture in any form is not the American way

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 12/22/2007

TERRE HAUTE — Today the news is: U.S. military uncovers al-Qaida-in-Iraq torture chamber and mass graves. Reading the story prompted the usual emotional response: outrage at al-Qaida, sympathy for the victims and their families, and a sense of we are better than they.

However, given the revelations about U.S. use of torture and our highest officials unwilling to even discuss whether “waterboarding” is torture, how different is it really? We admit to waterboarding one bad guy while our enemy tortures more? They have mass graves? How many have died in U.S. secret detention centers? I have no evidence, but given we already have engaged in the previously unthinkable, then thinking it, asking about it is neither out of the question nor out of bounds.

Where is the outrage? Would there be outrage if today’s headline instead read, “mass graves and torture chamber discovered linked to U.S. military/intelligence operations”?

Today there is also news about congressional hearings on possible lawlessness of U.S. contractors in Iraq toward our own people, not even the enemy! Blackwater is one thing, they killed “them,” but raping one of “us” and then covering it up? Thank goodness her congressman is a Republican, otherwise there undoubtedly would be a cry of anti-American, anti-war Democrats just making stuff up.

The revelation of U.S. personnel torturing Zubaydah, regardless of who he is or what he might know, sickens me. If, as has been suggested, that members of the Senate and Congress knew about these practices and let it go on without sharing with the American people what was happening, for me, regardless of party stripe, is an offense, a revelation of character, that disqualifies any of them from my vote.

I hope that Richard Lugar, my senator, for whom I have voted three times, did not know. I hope that Evan Bayh, my senator for whom I have voted twice, did not know. I hope that Brad Ellsworth, whom I voted for, did not know. If there is evidence they did, and did nothing but shut up about it, they have lost my vote. Although I understand that an elected official privy to such sensitive information could not, with honor, whistleblow, they could do the patriotic thing and resign from the committee, which would bring attention to something amiss.

Most U.S. citizens are ignorant of what is going on the U.S. and the world. More people know that Brittany Spears’ 16 year old sister is pregnant than who Gen. Petraeus is. But, during elections, more people get a bit informed about what is going on and elect people to be in the know, to act better than the general populace. We elect people to defend the Constitution, not succumb to the winds of uninformed public opinion.

In a dictatorship, you can absolve the people of responsibility for the policies of the dictator. But in a democracy, public opinion, informed or not, is a force. We, individual citizens, share in the responsibility of what our government does in our name. If government officials break our laws and we ignore it, then we share in it.

Oh, I know some are thinking, “just another liberal, idealist wimp.” I am far from it. I am a realist, something that there are far too few of, I am afraid.

Here is my position on torture and I dare, yes, dare anyone to argue against it. Torture should be illegal and the practice of it by U.S. personnel should be harshly punished, meted out in our courts by a jury of one’s peers. The only argument used against this position is apparently the one that justified the waterboarding of Zubaydah, that he had crucial information that if extracted could save lives. This is a variation of the ethical dilemma of if you have the bomber who has just started the timer on a nuclear weapon in a major American city, would you torture to get the information? If one is going to use an end-to-justify-the-means argument, so be it. Torture the suspect. If torture delivers the information that saves the day, then let a jury decide if the torturers should be punished; and if torture gets nothing from the suspect, then let a jury decide if the torturers should be punished.

This is the AMERICAN way and I am directing this at those who chest thump, Bible thump, and flag wave in justifying an “anything goes” mentality in the global war on terrorism.

No comments:

Blog Directory - Blogged The Steiger Counter at Blogged