Monday, April 20, 2009

If It Quacks Like A Duck, It's Torture

I began writing this blog entry on Monday, April 20, but wouldn't you know it, my boss actually expected me to do some work. The week progressed from busy to busier, so I'm just finishing it up today. Hey, this idea was fresh on Monday.
My sister likes to tease me by pointing out when I state the obvious. Well here I go, I'm about to state the obvious--waterboarding is torture. According to the headlines in the news, the CIA used waterboarding 266 times in interrogating two (2) suspects. That's right folks, just two suspects.

According to a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum, Abu Zubaydah, an alleged Al Qaeda operative, was subjected to waterboarding 83 times, and the C.I.A. used waterboarding 183 times in March 2003 against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Before anyone gets all excited and starts screaming, "They were terrorists! Don't you love your country! They don't deserve any better!" Yes, they are human beings that may have committed acts of terrorism. Yes, I love my country, but that doesn't mean that I'm blind to its flaws. Because I love my country, I believe that we deserve better.

I grew up in the 1950s, during the Cold War. I vaguely recall discussion in the news of the Gulag and Siberia and Russians. I didn't understand what any of it was about but I do remember when I was older, watching some movie that was about brave men who escaped from some prison in Siberia where they had been subjected to torture. The escapees were the heroes; the torturers were the bad guys.

I remember when this country wore the white hats and aspired to be the good guys. We weren't always perfect, but we tried to uphold ideas of right and of justice, sort of like Camelot, without the king or the round table. What happened to us? It's easy enough to blame George W. Bush, but that's not fair or accurate. He didn't elect himself--twice. I understood our anger after 9/11 but anger is like acid, it eats away at your reason until you are consumed with notions of do unto others before they do unto you, a total corruption of the tenets of the God that everyone from Miss America to Grammy award winners thanks for making it all possible.

Our new attorney general, Eric Holder, stated definitively that waterboarding is torture and President Obama has put an end to its use as an acceptable interrogation technique. However, some of my fellow Americans are upset that the president released the memos that confirmed what we already knew, that the CIA used torture to interrogate prisoners. Republican Congressman Peter Hoekstra wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the Obama Administration should be investigated for releasing the torture memos, joining the chorus of Republicans accusing the president of putting the nation at risk by releasing the torture memos.

The funny thing about having ethical standards and applying the principles of justice is that it's easy to do when everything is going well. It's no real test of your ethical nature to do the right thing when there are no challenges to be overcome. Let's take a simple example. You are an ethical person who believes that stealing is wrong. However, you've recently lost your job. You're facing foreclosure and you have a family to care for. On your way back from a job interview that didn't go very well. you witness an accident. A Wells Fargo truck loaded with cash crashes into a guard rail, flips, and there is money all over the highway. It's not your money, but other people are leaping out of their cars and gathering up piles of bills. What do you do? Is stealing suddenly acceptable? Should you grab your share? Or do you uphold your principles and not participate in all the money grabbing fun?

When this country was attacked on 9/11, adhering to our principles, to our ethical standards was our biggest test and I think that we failed miserably. We had an opportunity to rise above the hurt and anger and demonstrate that we would not abandon our struggles to maintain justice, to uphold right, even in the face of this devastating attack. I'm no Pollyanna, and I don't believe that pre-9/11 America was a paragon of virtue, but I do think that we aspired to be better than our baser impulses, tried to walk the high road even though we sometimes failed. After 9/11, we quit even trying. We not only tortured people, we justified it and now, we'd rather pretend that it didn't even happen. The motto for a lot of people is, "Let's not talk about it."

That's stupid. The past cannot be unwritten by pretending that it didn't happen. I'm glad that President Obama has dragged our nasty behavior out into the light; however, now he faces quite a dilemma. People were tortured in violation of our own laws and the Geneva Convention; shouldn't somebody be punished?

There's the rub, who do we punish? The CIA agents were told by then Attorney General John Ashcroft that their interrogation techniques were within the law. Former national Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice gave approval for CIA operatives to use waterboarding on prisoners. President Bush apparently believed that we were acting within the law. He was fully aware of the techniques being used to gain information, as was Dick Cheney. Can we hold the CIA agents accountable without also holding the lawyers, Bush, and Cheney responsible? What precedent will it set if the current administration were to prosecute CIA operatives who acted with the full approval of the previous administration? Is it fair to hold the foot soldiers responsible for carrying out policy that was set at the top level. What about Congress? There were memos , meetings, and presentations about what was being done to detainees. Are there members of Congress who should be indicted?

Sorry, but I don't have any answers, just a whole bunch of questions, annoying isn't it? I do have a prediction. There will be no trials of anyone because to pursue charges against anyone would require pursing charges against them all and that's not going to happen. I'm not even sure if it should, because I think that ultimately the guilt is shared by all the people in America who turned their backs on justice in pursuit of vengeance. Perhaps the best that we can do is to acknowledge our collective fall from grace and commit to regaining that high road again where we strive to "...hold these truths to be self-evident..." that all humankind is created equal.


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Still relevant, it is on CNN right now still. I agree that we lost our way a bit when it comes to liberties, but am also glad that we have not been attached again. I think the torture crossed the line though, but do not think that the wire tapping did.

Beth said...

My dear husband would like me to tell you that he meant "attacked." :)

I have no answers when it comes to prosecution, either. I was so dismayed to hear that Condi had some serious culpability in this, because I admire her in a lot of ways.

I'm glad that President Obama released these records: let this show that this will not be tolerated or hidden, and that such behavior will be outed.


Linda S. Socha said...

Well written interesting thought provoking post. I am in agreement.I expecially noted that we are now just at the level of the Spanish Inquisition....How behind civilized thinking is that? To tell the truth this made me sad AND I am glad you wrote the post

Anonymous said...

My Thoughts:

Just a warning... I got very upset in this entry but.. I think I made a point!

Anyone is welcome to comment!

--- Christopher

Rebecca Anne said...

Good to see you've wrote again and as always I'm better informed and more enlighted by your blog entries. Well done.
Your right. Lets all just state the facts that it is torture, no matter how justification is attempted.
The whole process, no matter who was receiving it makes me sick.

ADB said...

I think you made a very valid point in that post. It is a test for civilised nations to remain true to their values even when under attack from those who have no values. However horrendous the attack, there is no justification (in law or moral) to descend to their level. Very difficult to do, and unfortunately, not achieved by the US administration of the day.

chefkelly25 said...

My, oh my. This is a hard one. First of all let me just say that if I knew that it was Madoff's money that was being transported by that truck, I would be shoving that money in my underware. I have to disagree on many points. I thought about it the other day and feel that once the presidency changes hands along with many cabinet leaders they should not try to charge or hold the previous cabinet members accountable for this type of thing. Way too many people are involved and much time can get wasted. Move on and create new avenues. The sorrow and pain that I felt for our country and for my fellow citizens leads me to approve of certain types of interrogation. To remember the sight of people leaping to their death in a split moment of having to make the choice of being burned to death or jump sickens me to this day. It was suppose to be just another normal day at the office. How do you reason with people like this? They come from a country where the culture and belief is entirely different. I am a firm believer of having to face consequence.

Marc said...

I think we should give all those who authorized "harsh interrogation techniques" as well as insisted they did not consitute torture, the option of getting waterboarded 3 times in one day for 20 minutes each time or spending a year in jail.
I had to de-friend someone on Facebook because they defended torture. It is indefensible. PERIOD. You said it all very well, as usual.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Excellent post, my friend. And I agree that we need to focus on being the 'good guys' again and that there are way more questions than answers.

I am not currently proud to be an American, but I so want to be proud again. President Obama gives me some hope that we're headed in the right direction.

Love to you.


Sybil said...

Like Marc says Torture is indefensible...Period... I wonder what... if any ... information they actaully got from the detainees and surely if you didn't get it after one of these forms of torture continuing doing it is valueless.
I pray and hope that by publicly bringing this into the light will make everyone more aware and therefore be alert to it ever happening before. As to who should be brought to justice I like you don't have the answer..
Perhaps if everyone who believes they live is a Christian country would obey the ultimate law of LOVE ONE ANOTHER world remember that and also remember that at the end there will be judgment...we ourselves do not need to judge.
Love Sybil x

Cathy said...

May I say my friend, when we "wore the white hats" it was a sham, a false, most cruel deception that made us boomers think all was well. I too, remember the Gulags and talk of such alien-sounding places, trying to imagine what went on there. This country, by the power of a small handful of power-brokers, the monied elite, has never been about the "everyman" or the honest ethical struggling human. We've been slaves of these masters since right around the time of our "sainted" founding fathers, all Freemasons, who wrote a document to serve only that small few. Very high-sounding words, but meaningless because they've never been realized. These people don't care about what we need or want. As long as we continue to fill the till and be the silent, uncomplaining sheeple and collateral we're expected to be, they'll continue to have our lives in their velvet-lined pockets. I'm talking about the Bilderberg Group, the Rothchilds, Rockefellers, Morgans, etc. the people who run this country. The President is paid to do as he/she is instructed and I've yet to understand why our generation didn't do more to stop it. We may believe we're free, we may speak our ideas in safety, but we're as enslaved as we always were. It's just a matter of how comfortable a deal you make with yourself about your place in all of it. Torturing others is part of our "American way" and always has been. It's even considered heroic, can you imagine?? Thanks for letting me get this out here at your e-home, and if you have any doubts Google "Bilderberg Group" to get an idea of you runs your life. NAMASTE my friend.

aims said...

“but anger is like acid, it eats away at your reason until you are consumed with notions of do unto others before they do unto you, a total corruption of the tenets of the God that everyone from Miss America to Grammy award winners thanks for making it all possible.” Sheria, this quote is just one of the many reasons why I love you to pieces. Your statement is so true. I’m not really sure what to say about this subject as I’ve purposely chosen to stay away from all news for a while, because I find it more depressing than I can handle these days. - But your quote on anger caught my eye because that’s something I’ve been writing about a lot in my offline life [the subject of anger, forgiveness, etc] Admittedly, it’s a big one to overcome.

Also, I wanted to stop by to say hello to you and I’ll be thinking of you this Sunday. - Sending hugs your way.

PS - LOVE your music play list!

Cathy said...

Oops missed seeing it was your birthday - you're still a spring chicken! As to this post, I think you already know how I feel. Much love.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Hi, Sheria. Just popped by to say hello. Hope all is well.