Never in a thousand years would I have thought that I’d ever be writing about torture. Today’s confirmation of Gonzales has brought the topic back up. I have no strong feelings if he should have been confirmed or not. I’m not sure how I would have voted had I been a Senator. It would have been a balance between giving the President the people he wants, and a fair amount of moral outrage.
The idea that the U.S., regardless of the circumstances, would even consider torturing captives of any sort is totally foreign to everything I’ve always thought the U.S. stands for. Or, should I say, everything the U.S. used to stand for. Any more, I’m not so sure. And as I listen to all the Administration’s supporters try to either justify or deny what has been going on, I just go nuts. Here’s some of the pathetic things we’ve all been hearing.
(1) This was just a few bad apples, some misguided night-duty guards. Unfortunately, the memos indicate that there was a long-term discussion about how to dismiss a wide variety of civilized-behavior norms – things like the torture conventions and the Geneva accords. I doubt either Mr. Bush or Mr. Rumsfeld ever gave orders to torture the prisoners. They wouldn’t be that stupid. But they certainly set the stage where torture was seen as acceptable, and not just in Iraq.
(2) This wasn’t really torture. The Red Cross is a bunch of pussies. This was just blowing off steam. Cheerleaders build pyramids too. Torture happens only when the pain approaches that of major organ failure(thanks to our medicare regulations for that particular gem). Well, I don’t know exactly where persuasion ends and torture starts. But why would the U.S., of all countries, even be playing around close to that line? Have we become so disrespectful of our fellow human beings? Have we no decency? Where is our Christian heritage?
(3) This is a new type of war and we need additional “tools” to fight it. First, I have a hard time considering that this is a war. Fighting a war is not consistent with tax cuts. Fighting a war is not consistent with major new entitlement programs. Fighting a war is not consistent with a bunch of civilians running it. Beyond that, our enemies in this “war” do not represent an existential threat to our country. Even during WWII, when there arguably was a threat to our country, we didn’t resort to torture. I’ve heard stories of marines that treated Japanese prisoners pretty badly, but as far as I know once any prisoners reached a POW camp they were treated fairly well.
(4) In Gonzales’s case, he was just preparing legal memos that explored what our options were. They were not his opinions, he was just doing his job. This sounds like a variant of the Nuremberg defense. And if he was just following instructions, who gave him the instructions in the first place? It would have had to been Mr. Bush, wouldn’t it? Regardless of the legalisms this shows a serious lack of moral character in everyone involved, and this Administration has been keen to proclaim it’s moral righteousness. Moral hypocrite seems more appropriate.
The U.S. historically has more than just followed civilized norms, we have embodied them. We have always led the way to their adoption and have taken great pride in doing so. It is part of what makes America special. It is part of what gives us a moral edge, and convinces us that we are a good country, in addition to being a great country. Please everybody, let’s step back and think about how far down we’ve come.
February 4, 2005