Saturday, June 6, 2009

Torture: What is at Stake?

Many people associate the idea of torture with the looming specter of a tyrant of yesteryear or a modern sadistic monster of some unfortunate, oppressed and backwards nation. Torture is performed by jackbooted thugs with Swastika arm patches, brutal Japanese Kempetai military police, or the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, not by the United States, where we expect better of ourselves.

Yet today in many quarters of American life, from Average Joe to Washington politico, a debate rages over torture. The key issues are the moral status of “waterboarding,” and the contrived sobriquet of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Those who expect better of their country and her leadership in the area of torture are accused of not caring about the American lives at stake, or, God forbid, of being a liberal. Torture supporters attempt to justify their brutality using the faulty moral argument that because “they,” meaning the terrorists, do it to us, why not afford them the same courtesy? They say that forbidding torture means that we are “coddling” terrorists rather than treating them “as they deserve.” But to any Patriot who believes in the rule of law, justice, and rising above the barbarism of your enemy, these arguments have no basis in fact other than to attempt to disarm a torture opponent’s argument, and besmirch a torture opponent’s character.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know about you, but I personally believe that America loses a portion of what is left of her freedom loving heritage, her sense of goodwill, and also her right to oppose such heinous acts like torture, when she abdicates the moral high ground. Who are we as Americans, morally, if we approve of the very things we denounce other countries, governments, and, yes, even terrorists, of doing in this present day world? For what we now would make common place – and claim is morally justified – is precisely what we have prosecuted Japanese and German soldiers in War Crimes Tribunals in the Pacific and Europe. We have even prosecuted American soldiers for subjecting people to waterboarding in Vietnam. Not only is torture immoral, it cannot be legally justified when considered against the backdrop of history that emanates from other wars.

What do we become, or how low must we stoop if we approve of torture? We stoop to the level of scum and thugs who murder innocent people with projectile laden suicide bombs. We stoop to the level of people who murder people like Daniel Pearl and Nicholas Berg. We stoop to the level of people who have kidnapped American soldiers in Iraq, killed them, and dumped their disfigured corpses in the Euphrates. We stoop to the level of men who maim or murder their wives simply for being free-willed, or wanting to go to school, drive a car, or because their wife is too beautiful. We stoop to the level of men insane enough to commandeer four planes, take hostage the planes flight crew and passengers, and use those fuel laden planes as tools of death and destruction. We must think first about what we are losing when we attempt to justify torture. We are losing the right to be morally outraged when a terrorist kills Americans abroad or at home. We are also losing the right to be outraged when torture is used against our own troops.

In closing, the issue of torture is not about coddling terrorists. It is not about giving them special privileges. It is about honoring the heritage, or at least what’s left of it, that a collection of men began when they convened to write a Constitution that defined the rights of the free people who were taking part an experiment known as the United States of America. Justifying torture undermines one of the core principles of being an American: doing unto others what we would expect to be done unto us, even to those who we know won’t afford us the same courtesy. This principle, which is a part of an even greater American Heritage, I will vigorously and fervorently defend, not for the sake of pampering terrorists, but for the sake of the country I love so much, The United States of America.

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