Friday, April 17, 2009

About That Torture Thing

Here we go -- startin' the day off with a bang and a stuffy nose!

Making the morning rounds, I stopped by the New York Times to see if they had a comprehensive report on the torture memos released yesterday.  They do:

Together, the four memos give an extraordinarily detailed account of the C.I.A.’s methods and the Justice Department’s long struggle, in the face of graphic descriptions of brutal tactics, to square them with international and domestic law. Passages describing forced nudity, the slamming of detainees into walls, prolonged sleep deprivation and the dousing of detainees with water as cold as 41 degrees alternate with elaborate legal arguments concerning the international Convention Against Torture.
The end of the report goes like this:

But Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, cautioned that the memos were written at a time when C.I.A. officers were frantically working to prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing,” said Mr. Blair in a written statement. “But we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos.”

First, it should be noted that the NYT has come forward and called it what it is - torture.  It is important for the mainstream media to call it none other than torture as defined by international law and basic human law.

Mr. Blair's defense of those that relied on the memos is not unwarranted, but I do believe that the people that provided the legal defense for torture ought to be put on trial immediately.  There also needs to be an investigation of epic proportions to determine whether there were back channels used to discuss torture in ways that might show someone acted in bad faith.  I don't want a witch hunt, I just want justice to be served.

It should be noted also that Mr. Blair attempts to use the fear of the time as a defense of these heinous acts, giving cover for the blatant abandonment of our values and principles.  We hear of the sunshine patriot in Thomas Paine's work, but what of the sunshine human?  Is it only appropriate to adhere to one's principles when it is easy?  Even as someone that adheres to the creed, "Whatever works is whatever's best," there are moral boundaries that our society and culture have set up for good reason.  Debasing the humanity of another person to achieve an end is never justified.  Even if one could begin to consider the possibility that it might be, pragmatism is thrown out the window in favor of pure sadism and evil, because torture does not work.

I think it's about time that the public act on this.  Silence is no longer an option.  In fact, the longer the public pretends like this didn't happen or just ignores the consequences, the graver the results will be for our society.  This is a blight on our history that recalls the Trail of Tears and the Japanese internment camps when viewing from the perspective that, radically, humanity is worth preserving.

We must challenge our representatives in Congress, challenge the president, and challenge our fellow citizens who don't have the political will or stomach to act alone.  It is the people that must put justice where it belongs, and put those that have acted against it where they belong - behind bars.  Indeed, if this is the land of the free and home of the brave, then let us be free enough to recognize injustice when it occurs and brave enough to do something about it.

(EDIT - Andrew Sullivan posted an amazing piece that just screams the truth.)

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