Torture is Wrong

Torture is wrong.

That is not a political statement; it’s a moral one. And it has been a cherished value of all civilized nations, regardless of political color or creed, since the first Geneva Convention was signed in 1864. Respect for human rights and abhorrence of suffering is not a liberal idea nor a conservative one, neither Republican nor Democrat. Both sides of the American political divide understand the undeniable moral constant.

Torture is wrong.

I know it. You know it. And anyone who finds themselves disagreeing with that statement is either a sociopath, or lying to themselves. You would not allow your loved ones to be tortured, you would not teach your children how to torture, and you would not be given leave to torture by your God. You might be forgiven, of course, but forgiveness would be necessary because . . .

Torture is wrong.

Torture is a morally bankrupt practice perfected by the worst villains in human history. It is a vile institution that so undercuts the righteousness of whomever practices it, that other nations band together to prosecute its perpetrators. There is a special cell in the Hague, and a special ring of hell for those who take the public trust and commit war crimes in the people’s names. America is the country that is most responsible for building this moral fortress in the world. We sent our Justice Robert Jackson to Nuremberg to speak with moral clarity about those acts which not even war can justify.

Torture is wrong.

But is it necessary? Would I, in the infamous ‘ticking time bomb’ situation, be willing to torture someone to save thousands, perhaps millions of lives? Knowing that all other alternatives were exhausted, all time had run out, and the only way to save people was to torture a prisoner, would I do it? I would. And I would also expect to be charged for my crime. I might have defenses, in a court of law, for my despicable act. I might properly even be pardoned by my government. But I would have broken the law – not just of our nation, but of all nations. Our laws should always reflect our basic principles and moral values. It should never condone torture. Why?

Torture is wrong.

And yet, the current administration is seeking to “redefine U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions” and specifically shield U.S. Personnel from being prosecuted for war crimes. This, because due to a Supreme Court ruling, they can no longer hide that they have committed some. Nationally elected Democrats, to what I hope will be their eternal shame, are mostly staying quiet on this, hoping to be saved by the revolt of Republicans who have not yet become subsumed in the rhetoric that to win a war against terrorists we must become just like them. “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism,” said Colin Powell, who served under Bush and is a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.”

Torture is wrong.

Our soldiers already fight an enemy given to too little pause when it comes to torture. Now, we propose to eliminate even their hesitation. And if we pass the laws that Bush is seeking to pass, when the enemy tortures American soldiers, the world will not condemn them. The world will wonder if we did not bring it upon ourselves. And the world will become a friendlier place for terrorists. And the global struggle against terrorist ideology will be less global, because other nations will find difficulty making a moral distinction between us and them.

Torture is Wrong.

As Republican Senator Lindsey Graham notes, “Now are we going to start being the first country in the world that changes the Geneva Conventions so the secret police programs of those nations will be OK? I mean, look how that would unravel. Every senator and congressman should understand, this is not about November 2006, this is not about your reelection. It’s about those who take risks to defend America.”

Torture is Wrong.

And all too often, it does not work. After John McCain was bound, kicked and exposed to the elements, beaten every few hours by a different guard, he signed a document confessing to war crimes. Because when you’re tortured, you’ll say anything. Anything. Anything. Anything.

But torture is wrong.

And I say this not because it will win elections. Indeed, there is someone somewhere who will read this and think this is about ‘crying for terrorists’. They will ignore that what we weep for is America. It is never popular to argue for what is right, to argue for the soul of your nation. Especially when it is easier to denounce every foreign looking person on the street. When it is convenient to assume that the Government never makes mistakes, and that if they accidentally torture an innocent person, too bad – he was just a brown Arab anyway. This is war, don’t you know, and war justifies anything. Anything. Anything. Anything.

Torture is wrong.

And I don’t care if we lose elections for saying so. I would rather lose elections for the next fifty years than know that my tax dollars are supporting torture – than knowing that war crimes are being committed in my name, and that Congress is trying to redefine the unforgivable, that my Government is telling the whole world, with a wink and a nod, that Americans are ok with torture. That American has abandoned its moral compass. That America has lost her soul.

Torture is wrong.

As I said, that is not a political statement; it is a moral one. But only politicians can stop our government from torturing. And that is why I implore you, from whatever political party you hail, to search deep within yourself. Ask yourself what you can tolerate being done with your tax dollars, being done in your name. Think of what you might tell your children, whether they are yet born or not, when they ask you what you did when the country was debating whether or not we should truly remain a member of the civilized world. Please call your Senators and tell them the plain, undeniable truth. That no matter how you ‘redefine’ it, or quibble over how much cruelty is too cruel, one undeniable fact remains.

Torture is wrong.

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