Friday, April 24, 2009

Torture and Miss California

When I started this blog, my intention was not to have a political blog. There are more than enough blogs on the Internet expounding the whole spectrum of political views. What difference would mine make other than to add to the cacophony of angry voices?
However, recently several hot subjects on the political landscape have made it almost impossible for me not to add my voice to the range of opinions being expressed in the public forum.

One subject is same sex marriage. I will address that subject in a future blog. The other subject is torture. Ironically, the recent news has connected these two subjects. Last week, Miss California answered a question about same sex marriage this way:

At the Las Vegas pageant, Prejean, 21, was asked by judge Perez Hilton how she felt about legalizing gay marriage. "In my country, and in my family, I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman,"

Note the phraseology that Miss California uses: “in my county, and in my family” In the country I grew up in I was taught that we did not torture……………..anyone. It didn’t matter how reprehensible the subject of the torture was, WE DID NOT TORTURE. Our country was better than that.

This is an interesting country that we live in now. Many on the Right regularly warn about the end of civilization as we know it if same sex marriages are permitted. Yet, many of these same people see no problem with torturing prisoners. These are the same people who proclaim themselves “good Christians.” They go to church expounding on their “family values.” Hypocrisy is no stranger to their church pews.

Put aside the fact that torture doesn’t work. There is no valid proof that torture has ever provided accurate information. If someone tortured me, I would tell them anything they wanted to know just to get them to stop. It has been proven over and over again information can be obtained by much more subtle means than brute physical torture.

The Bush Administration went to great pains to rewrite the legal laws to provide cover for their torture polices. When the atrocities were first revealed at Abu Ghraib, I literally could not believe it. This was our country? We permitted this to happen? Then when the administration blamed it on a “few bad apples”, I knew they were lying. I was in the Army. Part of my training was not to torture or abuse prisoners. Why in the world would a “few bad apples” take it upon themselves to stack naked prisoners in a pile on the floor? Sic dogs on them? Smear them with feces? No, these were orders from on high.

Now the torture memos have come out. There is a great deal of scrambling for cover. The Republicans are saying the Democratic leaders of the house were informed of the “methods” used for “enhanced interrogation.” As if this justifies the torture. It doesn’t.

Obama is in a bad situation. He has stated that he wants to “look forward” and “not backward.” But, the simple fact is that laws were broken. It appears that the laws in this country against torture were broken from the very highest levels of the government. The highest levels of government means President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Under Secretary Wolfowitz, and Douglas Fieth along with others yet to be named.

I remember reading a book about the Nuremberg War Crimes trials in which the Allied judges refused to accept the “just following orders” defense before passing sentences on the German war criminals. I thought at the time, what would our country do if the situation were reversed? It seems to me, as bad as the Nazi’s were, somewhat unfair to hang the lowly soldiers for just obeying orders. What were they going to do, have a mass revolt? But now it appears that the “just following orders” defense will protect those who carried out the torture of terrorist suspects. What remains to be seen is how our country will deal with those at the top of our government who callously disregarded over two hundred years of American values and ordered torture that accomplished nothing but to put our country in further danger and almost destroy our moral reputation among the community of nations in the world.

Just as Miss California said “In my country and my family, the way I was raised…..”; I will also say “In my country and my family, the way I was raised you didn’t torture.” It is as simple as that. Our country does not torture. George W. Bush made that statement when asked at a photo op some years ago. He angrily replied “The United States does not torture!” Of course we all know he was lying now. Only one of the many lies the Bush Administration told this country.

I’m not sure what should happen now to those who ordered the torture and those who carried it out in the Bush Administration. A great deal of damage has already been done and some will perhaps never be undone. It will take a long time, if ever, until our country regains our reputation as the moral force in the world. One thing I am very thankful for though is that these practices have stopped. I am thankful that all this information is being made public. While it has been proven time and time again that most of the members of the Bush Administration have no shame (a common flaw all the religious self righteous have), the rest of us can show the world that we care and this is not the way our country operates.

Barack Obama was elected by the majority of the American voters. The majority of the American voters have rejected the politics of division that the Republicans so successfully ran over the past decade by using the fear of gay marriage to get their conservative religious base out to vote. So Miss California, same sex marriage is coming whether you like it or not. Torture is out. That is what is happening in “my country and my family” this time. We do not torture.

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