domingo, 20 de septiembre de 2009

Selected Essays: On Right Wing Thinkers and Torture

Where is the Outrage from the Right?

April 28, 2009

In November of 2005 William F. Buckley, Jr., wondered if the administration in its carefully crafted language was adamant about not condoning torture, but perhaps was allowing it to happen, in its reaction to the 9/11 attack. Within the context of anti-torture statutes and laws being debated in Congress at the time, and that the administration did not seem to support (which later in December passed as the Detainee Treatment Act, subjected to one of those “signing statements” and explicitly overridden in Executive Order 13440 by President Bush), Buckley asked “Does the CIA require, for the success of its operations, a greater license than the military? Have we thought through the implications of anti-terrorist activity? If not, is Guantanamo a fetid creature of that confusion?” And he adds: “The administration has access to very bright and thoughtful civil servants, but they cannot shield the administration from the consequences of failing to think through the dilemmas they are in.” (William F. Buckley Jr., “It Can’t Be Said in Simple Words” The National Review, Nov. 4th 2005)

The present discussion related to the use of torture to elicit information from “high value detainees” is discouraging. We need intelligent, reasonable thinkers arguing on both sides of the political field in a way that can help us understand how the nation went astray in this straightforward issue, and to help lead us out of the quagmire. Torture is morally wrong, and there should be no doubt about this point.

In addition to that, torture is flawed: it is now known, for example, that it was a tortured detainee’s confession that gave the administration the information that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was in a secret alliance with Al-Qaeda; information used by Sec. Colin Powell in the UN to make his case for war against Iraq and to invade in March 2003. Neither assertion was correct.

On October 12th 2002 in Bali, Indonesia, simultaneous car and suicide bombs killed 202 people and injured 209 in an attack orchestrated by an Al Qaeda linked terrorist group, shattering what had been until then an idyllic tourist destination. On March 11th, 2004 Madrid was attacked by an Al-Qaeda inspired (and, possibly, trained) group, resulting in 191 people dead and over 1,800 wounded. On July 7th, 2005 London suffered a series of train and bus bombs also by Muslim terrorists killing 52 people and injuring 700; and in 2006 a plot was uncovered by British Intelligence to blow up US bound airliners and kill over 2,700 people over the Atlantic by smuggling and detonating liquid explosives onboard.

None of these attacks or attempts were thwarted by waterboarding Abu Zubayda 80 times in August of 2002 or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in March of 2003, or the other 26 Guantanamo detainees with documented torture by the US Government and its agents. As for those tortured in foreign lands we do not know much except what came to light in Abu Ghraib, and sketchy reports about young prisoners freezing to death after being chained naked to the floor overnight in the “Salt Pit” outside Kabul, or the case of Dilawar, the Afghani farmer whose plight and death was dramatized in the movie “Taxi to the Dark Side”.

Unless the torture used somehow selectively weeds out plots directed to other countries, terrorists have continued to plot, carry out attacks and kill innocent civilians throughout the world. We are not safer because we allowed torture—possibly quite the contrary. For certain, our military is less protected, as the reasoning used to disregard laws, conventions and treaties will go both ways in asymmetrical warfare against thugs of all sorts.

We need a public discussion that does not automatically defend or attack the parties involved on account of political affiliation or past associations. The disservice brought by the so-called right wing mouthpieces to what our country is all about borders on being antipatriotic. The radio entertainers and TV talking heads defending torture as a necessary evil are distorting the face of America and the minds of their followers. I cannot believe that the likes of Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Hannity or Mr. Beck truly are so against what America is all about, and I hope that it is only contrived opinions for the sake of superficial entertainment that makes them spout these distortions to our national principles.

Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck should also be equally outraged by the disregard of laws and distorted ethics that made Buckley presciently call Guantanamo “a fetid creature of confusion” standing on dubious legal ground. Their reasoning and arguments on air seem more of the knee jerk type than those of the thoughtful mind. Much the same can be said of those who call out from the left for the public disgrace and humiliation in the court of public opinion for many of those involved in this classic case of group-think rationalization.

Our pain on September 2001 cried out in anger and struck out in fear, seeking through revenge to punish painfully and physically anyone that we thought might possibly have had something to do with that attack. To avoid lashing out irrationally when under such duress we are a nation built upon laws. Breaking our own laws to pursue an understandable sense of vengeance was inexcusable. We are a republic, indivisible with liberty and justice for all, governed by laws, bearers, perhaps sometimes reluctantly, of a moral standard and ideal for the world to see; standards and ideals predicated on the notion that all men are created equal and have equally the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And we are a country founded on the rule of law, which requires that “justice for all” (not only for some) mandate to be pursued.

The potential complicity of current and past members of the political establishment on both sides of the aisle makes the appointment of an independent investigative body the only viable solution to examine this breach of trust by our government, and examine we must. If under the law, there is no criminal behavior found, so be it and it should be patently and clearly demonstrated. If, however, there are criminal charges to be made they should be brought so the world may be reassured that we do maintain a sense of justice within our perfectible system of government.

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