turning the page on torture

turning the page on torture

It is sad that it has taken a change in administration to begin to turn the page on torture. A categorical ban on torture is an American value, not a debatable value of one party or another. Perhaps we were in so deep that there was no way out … other than repentance. And repentance doesn’t come easily to politicians.

But it is heartening to watch now as we do turn the page. I applaud the order passed down to all CIA interrogators directing them to comply with the guidelines of the Army Field Manual. And the decision to release the memos authorizing and defending the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” is necessary and healthy if we want to clear the air and move on as a nation. Confession is the first step in repentance!

And it is confession because we must “own” together what we have done to “protect” ourselves, so we may be able to “disown” it now and move on. That’s what I see the Obama administration doing: not releasing the memos to bring shame down on the heads of Bush administration officials, but to bring shame down on all our collective heads for allowing and condoning torture. They are acting against not political rivals or even a rival ideology, but against torture itself.

That is why I can understand the decision not to prosecute officials of the previous administration. It’s not about exacting punishment or discrediting rivals, but about reversing course. It’s not about the swing of the conservative/liberal pendulum. We need to be free of the kind of thinking that allowed us to tolerate or excuse torture. And we need to embrace that commitment (once more) together.

Let’s move on, disown torture, and commit ourselves as a nation once more to an unwavering defense of basic and inalienable human rights … for all people!

A week ago, the bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee released their report on the Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody. Doug Muder has a very good summary and analysis of the report on his blog, The Weekly Sift. He reviews the findings of the report which refute “layer by layer” the common arguments used to defend the practices of the past eight years:

It’s not torture …

Even if it is torture, it’s not policy …

Even if it is a policy of torture, it’s legal …

Even if it’s illegal, it’s necessary …

Even if it’s illegal and unnecessary, it only hurts people who deserve it …

Even if it’s illegal, unnecessary, and hurts innocent people, it doesn’t hurt ordinary Americans …

Even if it’s illegal, unnecessary, hurts innocent people, and makes us all less safe, no one should be held accountable …

The article is worth reading in its entirety … if only to be sure we are well-enough informed that we will recognize the truth of what we have done as a nation and be ready to turn the page!

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