The debate over the McCain amendment continues. The amendment, attached to a defense appropriations bill, bans the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by any agent of the United States government against any person anywhere in the world. The White House, led by vice-president Dick Cheney, continues to lobby against the amendment, asking that its language be changed to exempt the CIA from its provisions.
I cannot in any way fathom how making allowances for torture — used by covert agents against suspected terrorists “if the president determines that such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack” — helps us win the war on terror or insure our safety or make the world a better place. It is a classic instance of “winning the battle” and “losing the war!”
The White House insists that they “do not condone torture, nor would [the president] ever authorize the use of torture,” and yet they clearly want to make allowance for the use of “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treament” when they deem it necessary. I fail to to see how this is not condoning torture!
Our nation is founded on the principles of the innate equality of all human beings and the universal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Any use of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment for any purpose absolutely violates those principles. Such behavior can only be justified by judging a person “less than human” and therefore not entitled to basic “human” rights. We protect ourselves at the cost of sacrificing our national soul and make ludicrous any claim to be an exemplary champion of human rights.
When the end justifies the means, eventually anything goes. And when the test is a subjective judgment of a few folks in positions of power, the risks of the abuse of power are enormous. Our system of government was expressly designed to mitigate such abuses of power.
I am hopeful that saner, wiser, and more humane hearts and minds will prevail. I am hopeful that we will uphold the principles that have made our nation a beacon of light and truth among nations. I am hopeful that evil will not win … the evil that lies too in our own hearts.