Sunday, September 24, 2006

Torturous Strategy

* 16 American soldiers were killed in Iraq last week.

In case anyone is wondering, which it seems that hardly anyone is, the three Republican senators who professed such concern that America should not be a nation that rejects the Geneva Conventions or engages in torture capitulated almost completely to the Bush administration. If their proposed legislation regarding torture ultimately becomes law, it will mean that detainees can forget having the right of habeas corpus. They will not be allowed to challenge the truth of any accusations made against them (if, in fact, the administration even bothers charging them with anything) or the legality or length of their treatment (i.e. torture).

Under the McCain/Warner/Graham plan, the U.S. government can (continue to) "detain" anyone, including U.S. citizens, never charge them with a crime, torture them - forever - while denying them the right to challenge their detention and treatment. And some are innocent, as in the case of the recently released Canadian who was determined not to have any ties with Al Qaida or any other terrorist group. Of course, finding him innocent of wrong-doing was a little late for him since the United States had already picked him up and sent him to Syria (you know, that great ally of ours, Syria?) who kept him and tortured him for ten months. And guess what? He confessed. Confessed to everything they wanted him to confess to, including that he was trained by Al Qaida in Afghanistan although it was later discovered that he had never been to Afghanistan or had any contact with Al Qaida. So, the information we got out of him was really valuable, wasn't it? And this is usually what you do get when you torture people.

This is the kind of stuff we used to read about with horror when it came out of the Soviet gulags. I had no idea that America would so easily give up its ideals and principles out of cowardice. Back when they were trying to impeach Bill Clinton, the Republicans raised such a hue and cry about their respect for the "rule of law" that it seemed to be their driving principle. You got the feeling that if you put your hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and then lied about jaywalking, it was just as bad as if you'd told an untruth about murder. It was the principle of the thing, you see. Perjury was perjury and it was all equivalent.

Now they sweep away the very bedrock of America's rules of law as if they were no more than specks of dandruff on our collective collar. Not that the Bush administration has ever committed perjury, I guess. They learned from Clinton so that they simply refuse to ever give testimony under oath (on the few occasions it ever comes up since the Republican-dominated Congress rarely exercizes its oversight responsibility with this particular president.)

Habeas corpus and not engaging in torture and not surveilling its own citizens all form the foundation of who we've always thought we were as a nation but, no more. It was easy enough to have integrity when it was never put to the test but now we're scared and when you're scared enough, principles fall by the wayside and you can justify almost anything. And so, we allow ourselves to become the very thing we abhor. We are back to the days of the lawless wild west, undoubtedly George Bush's favorite American era. Then it was "shoot first and ask questions later". Now it is, "torture first and don't even bother asking any questions".

I have to say, the Republicans set this up perfectly. They remain the masters of political positioning. Now, they can say that these three concerned Senators forged a compromise with the President and all has worked out for the best. They can assure Americans who might have had some doubts about our policies that we are "doing the right thing". They successfully put the Democrats in a Catch 22. Are the Dems to go to into the fire of voting on the McCain/Warner/Graham legislation and in essence, condoning torture or the frying pan of voting no and being labelled as "soft on the war on terror" in ads that will no doubt spring up like poisonous mushrooms as the November elections loom?

I know what I would wish for my representative. I'm realistic about the political world. I know that staying in office requires a certain amount of give and take, sometimes you settle for half a loaf, sometimes you vote with the majority for political expediency. But, there are some issues that so go to the heart of America's soul that your conscience should demand that you fight against it with all your strength and if you lose, well, you can sleep at night knowing you fought for the honorable course.

The Bible says, "for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" I think that may go for countries too.