Saturday, September 23, 2006

Who Needs the Moral High Ground?

We're in the 21st century and the U.S. is supposedly a beacon of freedom and hope for others around the world. I don't understand, then, why we are debating the best way to legalize torture. From all I've read, there seems to be no evidence that torture is a viable method to obtain information. It's a little abbhorrent that I even have to include the previous sentence as a disclaimer--to avoid being called a terrorist or Nazi "appeaser". Do terrorists deserve special treatment? Of course not. But here's an old joke told story by someone who was actually tortured in a Soviet prison:
One nasty morning Comrade Stalin discovered that his favorite pipe was missing. Naturally, he called in his henchman, Lavrenti Beria, and instructed him to find the pipe. A few hours later, Stalin found it in his desk and called off the search. "But, Comrade Stalin," stammered Beria, "five suspects have already confessed to stealing it."
I always thought that the terror alerts leading up to the '04 election were a cynical political tool. After all, little became of these supposed threats. But perhaps it was from "confessions" from people being tortured. Maybe even someone who was innocent and had no involvement with terrorists.

Sadly, it seems as though our leaders are willing to sell the soul of our country for shoddy intelligence at best. We are about to legalize torture in the United States! What has gone wrong with our country? I realize that some may be too "scared" to fight for the soul of the country as an abstract principle, so here is some practical advice against torture:
Today, when the White House lawyers seem preoccupied with contriving a way to stem the flow of possible lawsuits from former detainees, I strongly recommend that they think about another flood of suits, from the men and women in your armed services or the CIA agents who have been or will be engaged in CID practices. Our rich experience in Russia has shown that many will become alcoholics or drug addicts, violent criminals or, at the very least, despotic and abusive fathers and mothers.

If America's leaders want to hunt terrorists while transforming dictatorships into democracies, they must recognize that torture, which includes CID, has historically been an instrument of oppression -- not an instrument of investigation or of intelligence gathering. No country needs to invent how to "legalize" torture; the problem is rather how to stop it from happening. If it isn't stopped, torture will destroy your nation's important strategy to develop democracy in the Middle East. And if you cynically outsource torture to contractors and foreign agents, how can you possibly be surprised if an 18-year-old in the Middle East casts a jaundiced eye toward your reform efforts there?

Finally, think what effect your attitude has on the rest of the world, particularly in the countries where torture is still common, such as Russia, and where its citizens are still trying to combat it. Mr. Putin will be the first to say: "You see, even your vaunted American democracy cannot defend itself without resorting to torture. . . . "

Off we go, back to the caves.
Looks like our place on the moral high ground is soon to be abandoned for cheap political points. Bravo!


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