Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Positively torturous positions

Summits and Valleys


We have heard him say it several times, in slightly different ways: "We do not torture;" "This government does not torture people;" "Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere;" "Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right;" The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example;" No people, no matter where they reside, should have to live in fear of their own government."

George W. Bush, our president, has said these things.

Do you believe that? "We do not torture."

I don't believe it, and am of the opinion that anyone who does isn't paying attention, perhaps intentionally so from a torturous position that keeps the head embedded in a dark place. This is not to say (or believe) that everyone who says they believe that we do not torture really does believe it. People lie. George Bush lies. George Bush is not the first American president to lie, but his are certainly among the most transparent of attempted presidential deceptions. If he were not lying about the first two of his quotes in the first paragraph, the entire paragraph would be the words of a noble, honorable, decent man, a world leader worthy of respect, serious consideration and support.

Sadly for the entire world, that is not the case.

Unfortunately, George Bush is a liar.

In fact, we do torture.

In fact, this government does torture. We are leading this fight by example alright, but not in the way that George the deceiver was hoping to convey.

Think Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, ghost detainee, pain short of organ failure or death, the "quaint" and "obsolete" Geneva Conventions, water boarding, sleep deprivation, "enhanced interrogation techniques," ad nauseam, sometimes to death. Think about what those things mean in reality, not in the positively torturous image positions of political spin and presidential deceit.

To be more than fair to George the liar, the roots of the current policy of CIA extraordinary rendition go back to the early 1990s and administration of Bill Clinton, but since 9/11 the rendition program has expanded dramatically. The most succinct description of it came from ex-CIA agent Robert Baer: "If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan . If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria . If you want someone to disappear—never to see them again—you send them to Egypt ."

You is us. You and me. You and me is us. The United States of America . We the people. And we do, indeed, torture.

In fact, this democracy is a government of the people, for the people and by the people.

Do you believe that? We are a government of the people, for the people and by the people.

If you do believe that, then we—you and me and every other voting citizen—do torture people. And we have tortured people in the past and supported—indeed, propped up—totalitarian regimes that tortured their citizens, often in the service of American interests, like the Pinochet regime in Chile, Iran under the Shah, Somoza in Nicaragua, and Castillo Armas in Guatemala, and, one should never forget, Saddam Hussein in Iraq (until he fell out of favor), among many others.

Torture is as American as the oil beneath the sands of the mid East.

Some say that torture is wrong as an intelligence tool because it doesn't work, doesn't provide reliable intelligence, that anyone with a functioning nervous system will break under torture and say whatever it takes to make the torture and the torturer go away. I believe this.

Some say torture is morally wrong and not practiced by decent people, that the torturer sacrifices his humanity, integrity and any meaningful concept of quality of life when he relinquishes the moral high ground. I believe this as well.

Some say that torture is wrong because it is a bad strategy. If you torture your enemy he might well torture you in return; if you do not torture your enemy, but, rather, treat him as a fellow human being with inalienable rights, he well might be more inclined to treat you the same. I believe this, too.

I believe that most (but not all) Americans believe torture is wrong because of one or more or all of the reasons mentioned. If that is true, our government of, for and by the people is not representing the people and is in trouble. It is in a positively torturous position.

That position needs changing. Do you believe that?

If so, remember it at the next elections.

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