We're Better Than This

I used to call myself a "conservative" in political matters. Now it appears I will have to give up that label. Why? Because I'm against torturing prisoners, a practice which is fast becoming a litmus test of true conservatism.

I would like to think that most conservatives would feel the same way if they would just get past their fear/anger and think about what they are saying. "Whatever it takes to protect Americans is ok with me" is a common feeling. Really? Whatever it takes?

Answer me this: Suppose the only way to get important information is to seize the young son of the suspect and crush his testicles? Not the suspect himself, mind you - I mean a child who has nothing to do with any crimes or terror. According to John Yoo, one of the Bush lawyers who wrote the recently-released torture memos, the president can do that and more. Is this really what you want to defend?

"But that's not what we're doing," you might say. Are you sure? According to Mr. Yoo, the Bush administration saw no legal impediments to it. And we now know that Bush, Cheney, and a whole host of lower officials lied about what they were doing to prisoners. What else did they allow that we don't know about yet?

"It's the only way we can get the info we need." Well, no, not according to an FBI agent who helped question Al Qaeda leaders and not according to the CIA Inspector General. Professional interrogators are near-unanimous about the uselessness of harsh techniques. It appears they were overruled by the political leadership.

The truth is that these "ticking bomb" scenarios everyone likes to talk about are nonexistent in the real world. They happen only on stupid TV shows like 24. Remember, too, that there is no way to be sure that the person you are interrogating possesses the information you seek.

For those who think torture is so hard to define, there is a simple solution. International law, all kinds of treaties and agreements, Catholic "Just War" doctrine, and the beliefs of just about every religion on the planet require that prisoners be treated humanely.

Now answer me this: if you put your prisoner through controlled drowning 183 times in a month, or you keep him naked in a cold cell for days on end, or you slam his head into a fake wall, or you put him in a box with insects, or you keep him awake for weeks at a time, are you treating him humanely? No, you're not. Still confused? You can always apply the Golden Rule. If it's torture when Al Qaeda does it to captured Americans, then it's also torture when we do it to them.

Shepherd Smith on Fox News said it very well, and is catching heat from his network's audience for it. "This is America. We do not (beep) torture." (The beep is an ugly word he should not have said on television. Video here.

Indeed, this is America. But we do torture. Or at least we did, and I'm not at all convinced that Obama will stop it from happening again. We're better than this! The fact that we don't do these things is what separates us from the people we are fighting! If we torture prisoners and ultimately prevail, what will we have become? Will the America that survives be the one we wanted to save?

I'm disgusted that so many people I respect are giving in to their fear and supporting this evil. And here is the worst part: evil never wins in the end. It turns around and bites the one who wields it. We're setting precedents that will come back to haunt us. Do not be surprised if someone you love finds himself on the waterboard. I give it ten years.

If I have to choose between 1) losing the war and 2) losing the war and losing my soul with it, I choose number one.

Make your choice now. Make the right one. Your eternity may depend on it.

1 comment:

Thomas Joseph said...

I'm with ya on this. I'm quickly running out of viable candidates for which I can exercise my civic duty to vote on.