Shame, disgrace and ruin
The Bush administration tortured people. They have admitted that. Large portions of the U.S. population, mostly conservatives, have defended those actions. In reality, torture is indefensible, and those who claim to be patriots should know that. Opposing torture is not a “bleeding heart liberal” position. It’s being true to the principles upon which this country was founded. The following facts show why.
Fact: The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land: Article Six, Clause Two.
Fact: That same article clearly states that any treaty ratified by the U.S. has the same force of law as the Constitution itself.
Fact: In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture, saying, “Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.” Congress ratified the treaty in 1994.
Fact: The treaty defines torture as “… any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession….” The CIA torture program incorporated these elements.
Fact: The treaty says, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Those who violate this are to be prosecuted.
Fact: The presidential oath of office says, “I will …to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Military members take a similar oath. Torture violates this oath. In practice, torture yields very little useful information, but after 9/11, the Bush administration decided they would rather use torture than other proven methods. I enjoyed the television show “24”, but I realized it was fiction. Apparently the Bush administration thought it was a documentary.
Fact: “Presumed innocent until proven guilty” is a bedrock principle of justice. Twenty-six of the detainees who were tortured were innocent, cases of mistaken identity. One, Gul Rahman, died as a result of deliberate treatment by the CIA. On Dec. 9, 2014, Rep. Peter King (R- N.Y.) said “…nobody suffered any lasting injuries from this.” Clearly, death is lasting injury. The CIA killed an innocent man. Vice-President Dick Cheney was fine with this, showing his contempt for American principles.
I see bumper stickers saying “Home of the Brave.” By using torture, we have shown we are cowards. We have taught our children that as long as you get what you want, it doesn’t matter how many laws you break or how many people you hurt. We have taught the world that Americans are people who trample over anyone they want to. We have shown them what modern American values are — me first, at any cost.
The Constitution was born out of a terrible war. The authors knew how important the rule of law is; without the law, it’s too easy to give in to our emotions when terrible things happen. The law helps us overcome our worst instincts.
Fox commentator Brian Kilmeade claimed that George Washington tortured: “When someone or some group is trying to destroy you and your way of life, you need to do whatever it takes to stop them. George Washington did, and that’s a fact. So for those of you who say that’s not what we’re built on, we don’t beat the British without doing it.”
As usual, Fox is ignorant about actual history. Historian David Hackett Fischer wrote, “Washington often reminded his troops that they were an army of liberty and freedom and that the rights for which they were fighting should be extended to their enemies….American leaders believed that it was not enough to win the war. They also had to win in a way that was consistent with the values of their society and the principles of their cause.”
On Sept. 4, 1775, Washington admonished his troops: “Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause… for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.” Those who claim to honor American values should reflect on these words.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com.