I see that the Senate Intelligence Committee has released its report into the officially-sanctioned use of torture by this country during the presidency of George W. Bush.
There's been an awful lot of dust, fog and confusion thrown up by the usual suspects about this report. There are fears that it may provoke retaliation against this country.
Some lawmakers said it's important for the report to be released so the U.S. government will never again use torture as a method of interrogation. Others said it will inflame extremist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere and threaten the lives of U.S. diplomats, military members and other Americans overseas.
There's more at the link.
The ACLU pointed out that the report concentrates on the use of torture during the Bush administration, but completely ignores the 'rendition' (and associated torture) of suspects that commenced during the Clinton administration. Furthermore, several former CIA directors and senior personnel have complained that the report ignores the 'positive results' obtained through torture.
The program was invaluable in three critical ways:
- It led to the capture of senior al Qaeda operatives, thereby removing them from the battlefield.
- It led to the disruption of terrorist plots and prevented mass casualty attacks, saving American and Allied lives.
- It added enormously to what we knew about al Qaeda as an organization and therefore informed our approaches on how best to attack, thwart and degrade it.
Again, more at the link.
I submit that all of these polemics are fundamentally misguided. They completely miss the point at issue. It's simply this: The United States claims to set a standard of freedom, justice and liberty for the world. How in heaven's name can the use of torture be reconciled with that claim?
When our enemies used 'waterboarding' against US prisoners of war, the USA (rightly) called it 'torture'. What makes our use of the same technique against Al Qaeda prisoners anything less than or other than torture? If it was wrong for others to use that technique against our personnel, what makes it right for us to use it against our enemies?
I'm not a fan of Senator John McCain of Arizona, but if anyone can talk about torture from the receiving end, he can. I think he was absolutely correct when he said:
“In my personal experience, the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence, but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear –- whether it is true or false –- if he believes it will relieve his suffering,” he said.
McCain argued the harsh interrogation techniques more fundamentally degrade “our national character and historical reputation” and put American soldiers at greater risk of torture in the future.
“I know that Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organization do not share our scruples about the treatment of enemy combatants,” he said. “But we must bear in mind the likelihood that some day we will be involved in a more conventional war against a state and not a terrorist movement or insurgency and be careful that we do not set a standard that another country could use to justify their mistreatment of our prisoners.”
“Ultimately this debate is about far more than technical or practical issues,” said McCain. “It is about far more than whether torture works or does not work. It is about far more than utilitarian matters. Ultimately, this is about morality.”
“We are America, and we hold ourselves to a higher standard,” he said.
More at the link.
Senator McCain is right. Ultimately, this IS about morality. If we allow ourselves to do to others what we condemn others for doing to us, we make ourselves hypocrites - as a nation and as individuals. That torture was ever officially sanctioned is a national tragedy. It must be abandoned as an instrument of policy, once and for all: and those responsible for approving such policies in the past must be called to account for their immoral and profoundly wrong decisions.