It is a sad day indeed when everyday citizens of the United States actually debate whether or not torture should be blessed by the U.S. President, our military, and our various security forces operating abroad and at home. Having served in the U.S. military, having studied the U.S.-led war in Indochina extensively (including the plight of our POW/MIAs who were never returned from Laos) and firmly believing not only in the values embodied in our Constitution but also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I reject unequivocally the claims by Richard Cheney and others that torture is acceptable and a good thing for the United States military, for the foreign policy of the United States, or for anyone. Having spent many hours listening to and learning from survivors of Nazi death camps, it is almost incomprehensible for me to realize that former leaders of our nation then secretly, and now openly, defend the use of torture methods by our soldiers and security agents. I’m not entirely naive. I have an incomplete understanding of the difficulties of war and armed conflict. But as a former military member and officer, I also understand without question that the sanctioned use of violence has and must have limits. When I studied U.S. foreign policy in Latin America during 1992-93 in Mexico City, I (and others) wondered if an outcome of the “unipolar” political world following the breakup of the former Soviet Union would be a U.S. military and foreign policy agenda which would exercise its power without restraint. Sadly, the administration of George W. Bush realized that fear (at least in part) and the Bush-condoned torture policy is case study number one of that saga.
I have written previously on this topic, and my views have not changed. See my May 2004 post, “Unexcuseable inhumanity / the dark side of the human psyche,” my October 2004 post, “POWs, Geneva Conventions, Guantanamo, and the Supreme Court,” and my January 2009 post, “Iran, Sovereignty, Colonialism and the Values of the West” for additional perspectives and background on these topics.
Whatever your political opinions about George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, and the topic of torture in the “war on terror” (renamed “Enhanced interrogation techniques” by those who wish to obfuscate the reality of these methods)– I encourage you to watch the following two videos.
The first is a 4 minute, 44 second video of Chicago radio personality Mancow Muller, who agreed to be subjected to waterboarding to share an opinion about whether or not this “interrogation technique” constitutes torture. His answer is unequivocal.
Can you believe our President, Vice President, and other leaders gave sanction to this form of torture to be performed by U.S. soldiers? Can you believe one individual, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was waterboarded 183 times in March of 2003? (Source: Bush-era memo dated May 30, 2005, quoted in 19 May 2009 CNN article, “Questions of torture, abuse rooted in Bush-era decisions.”) Who, I dare to ask, has become the evil villain in our supposed righteous “war on terror?” Our former executive branch leaders took our nation down a dark path, and I for one rejoice that our democratic nation spoke and took them out of office.
Please take time to also watch this 3 minute, 37 second video featuring interview commentary by Matthew Alexander, who:
…was the senior military interrogator for the task force that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and, at the time, a higher priority target than Osama bin Laden. Mr. Alexander has personally conducted hundreds of interrogations and supervised over a thousand of them.
Matthew’s message is clear:
Torture does not save lives. Torture costs us lives… And the reason why is that our enemies use it, number one, as a recruiting tool… These same foreign fighters who came to Iraq to fight because of torture and abuse… literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives.”
Thank you, President Obama, for banning torture and working to uphold U.S. Constitutional values. You are right to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. You are right to ban torture. Our nation, our servicemen and women, and the values of our country were shamed by your predecessor in office and his leadership team which gave torture their official stamp of approval and blessing. Thank you for acting as a President and chief executive of which I can be proud. The mess which the Bush administration left you and us, as an American people, is extremely difficult, but together we will overcome and work to restore the actions of our nation and the actions of our people to the high standards to which they should conform.
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