Torture

By

Leonard Zwelling

         There really wasn’t a whole lot new in the Senate report on
enhanced interrogation techniques used by the US CIA against our enemies in a
non-declared war in Afghanistan and other sites. Many people behaved badly and
though there is some debate about whether these inhuman methods unearthed any actionable
intelligence that we would not have had anyway, torture is clearly against the
principles upon which this country was built. Water boarding is not the protection
of an inalienable rights and surely not an expression of the sanctity of the
individual and his or her rights as a person.

         Putting that aside for a moment, I find it very difficult to
believe that these techniques were sanctioned by lawyers in the government and
then carried out by our soldiers and CIA agents. I understand the concept of
getting dirty when fighting a filthy enemy, but foregoing all of our
principles, while probably not making us all that much safer, seems a heavy
price to pay and a poor choice for the Bush Administration to have made. Like
the government sanctioned Tuskegee experiments on poor black men in the South
who were not treated for syphilis despite the availability of penicillin in
order to trace the natural history of the disease, the allowance of torture is
inhuman and un-American. But how often do humans do inhuman things to their
fellow humans? Far too often and rationalizing this behavior that is what regulations are for.

Regulations
are the practical guidelines that apply the principles of our core beliefs to our national conduct.
Regulations define what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior.
Regulations are the real-world expression of our ethics and our morals.

         Surely there is a continuum between rigorous interrogation
techniques and torture, but there is also a line when the first becomes the second.
We cannot cross that line and then rationalize what we have done as not having
done so. This is moral relativism of the worst kind, justifying bad behavior
because the enemy is doing it.

         The so-called War on Terror that began in earnest after 9/11
was never a war. It was essentially a police action against a Mafia like group
of really bad guys who seem to be getting even badder with the arrival of ISIS.  Either we are going to declare war on these
militant factions of Arabs in an effort to provide some stability and civilization
in that part of the world or we are not. The halfway moves being employed now won’t
do.

         I suggest that President Obama sit with his top advisors and
devise a strategy to accomplish something concrete in the area of foreign
policy. It could be the spread of democracy. It could be the spread of true
capitalism. It could be a Middle East and beyond where elections determine the
nature of the governments that run the countries. Anything is possible. But not
this.

         The United States cannot be a beacon of light and hope to
the world when we are torturing anyone. The United States must always take the
moral high ground whether or not there are billions of barrels of oil under the
high ground.

         Also, leaders who need to consult with lawyers in order to
determine what is right and wrong, need to resign. Lawyers will tell you what
the law says, how to get around it and even more importantly how to not get caught.
That’s a lawyer’s job. The United States simply cannot be guided by people with
ethics and morals like that.

         In an address to the Congress on December 1, 1862, Abraham
Lincoln called the United States “the last best hope on earth.” 

         “Some men see things as they are
and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” – George Bernard
Shaw

“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things
that never were and say why not.” – Robert Francis Kennedy

These are the dreams and aspirations of the United States of
America. Mention of torture has no place among these dreams and cannot be
rationalized in any way. And they shall not be.

What I do not understand is why the President of the United
States will not ask the Department of Justice to find out who determined this
torture was legal and then bring them to justice.

Anything less is un-American.

Leonard Zwelling