Where do you stand on the “torture” debate that’s been roiling the national consciousness of late? Like many, I wish it would just go away. After all, there are so many serious economic problems to deal with. What’s there to gain in rehashing thorny issues that are receding ever more quickly into the past?
The problem, as ever, is not the past – it’s the future. Although it seems unlikely, now that we have a pragmatic idealist in the White House, there will come a time when the drums will beat, the flags wave and we’ll be asked to rush off to war again.
We won’t be asked to fight a noble enemy – has there ever been one? More likely it will be a group of psychopaths seeking to destroy as many civilians as possible in order to gain publicity for their cause. Then what?
I remember standing on a rooftop in Lower Manhattan watching the twin towers collapse. Within seconds a rumor swept the neighborhood that a third plane was on its way. At that moment if some “foreigner” in a turban or dashiki had been accused of harboring relevant information, I wouldn’t have given much for his chances of survival. Such is the heat of the moment.
Apologists for torture reason that the country was under severe stress from the catastrophe of 9/11 – that the end justified the means. Tell that to Winston Churchill who resisted calls for extreme measures to be meted out to enemy detainees during the London Blitz.
The Spanish Inquisition perfected the technique we know as waterboarding but I doubt if even those noble men of god used it a hundred or more times on individual heretics, as happened on our behalf during 2003. It goes without saying that using simulated drowning even once is repugnant to most Americans, no matter what claims of legality are argued by former White House lawyers.
I think that many of us are wary of a real investigation for fear of what it may uncover. We’ve come to terms with the indecencies of Abu Ghraib but so far we’ve not had to confront the things done on our behalf by our Eastern European and Middle Eastern allies. Some of the “suspects” we handed over to these paragons of human rights were innocent of any major crime; we just did not wish them “questioned” under the safeguards provided by American jurisdiction.
And to think much of this illegality - for want of a better word - was conducted in a vain attempt by the Bush Administration to link Al Qaida with Saddam Hussein. The sad part is, while Bush, Cheney, et al are inking their book deals, we’re still mired in Iraq preventing the inevitable confrontation between Sunni and Shia in their thirteen hundred year old schism.
To say that American goodwill has been shamelessly squandered is an understatement. We used to be the good guys - and for the most part we still are – it’s just that we’re not seen that way anymore. We can sweep the mess created by a paranoid, brainless administration under the carpet and get on with putting the country back on a sound economic footing as President Obama and a majority of the country would prefer.
The problem is: with the recent release of classified information regarding the noble art of waterboarding the genie has now well and truly been let out of the bottle
So, what to do? Well, how about appointing an independent commission - but spare us the usual grandstanding bipartisan politicians. There are many women and men of sound judgment who could dispassionately disclose what actually happened to the country in our rush to war back in 2003.
That story would make gripping reading and, who knows, perhaps things weren’t as bad as some people suspect. One way or another, with the truth revealed we could finally put this fiasco behind us, reset our moral compass, and once more become the “good guys.”
If nothing else, those who perished on 9/11 will rest easier for they will no longer be used to justify perverse policies that the vast majority of them would never have condoned while alive.