at our worst … and best

at our worst … and best

Three Iraqis and a Jordanian filed federal lawsuits Monday alleging they were tortured by U.S. defense contractors while detained at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

The lawsuits allege that those arrested and taken to the prison were subjected to forced nudity, electrical shocks, mock executions and other inhumane treatment. They seek unspecified payments high enough to compensate the detainees for their injuries, and to deter contractors from such conduct in the future.

“These innocent men were senselessly tortured by U.S. companies that profited from their misery,” said lead attorney Susan L. Burke, of the Philadelphia law firm Burke O’Neil. “These men came to U.S. courts because our laws, as they have for generations, allow their claims to be heard here.”

From an Associated Press article by David Dishneau, Abu Ghraib Inmates Sue Contractors, Claim Torture

Terrible things — truly terrible things — have been done in our name, “to protect the interests of the nation.” Terrible things have been done, with precious little accountability. Only media reports and opinion pieces — not really the courts and not really the congress — have held the practice of “enhanced interrogation” up to the light of day, but, even so, such reporting has sparked little outrage. Some of us deny it. Some of make excuses for it. And some of us just chalk it up to the cost of ensuring our security.

Personal and national security, whatever the cost, without regard for law or principle or love of neighbor: this shows us at our worst.

But now four individuals subjected to “enhanced interrogation” are suing. I applaud this opportunity to “try” the case, to bring the facts to light, to put the minds and hearts of the American people and the American justice system to the test. And as the lawyer for the plaintiffs suggests, this shows us at our best, capable of facing and redressing our own sins. The American system of governance is supposed to work that way, giving all access to justice, and allowing for self-correction as we learn from our mistakes.

May it be so in this case …

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