Friday, December 19, 2014

America's Fatal Addiction to War and Torture

Abu Ghraib: Specialists Charles Graner 
punching restrained prisoners
Credit: U.S. military or Department of Defense
Copyright: Public Domain

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were a time we could have shown the world the strength of America’s character. But the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Torture Report revealed just the opposite: America failed to live up to the principles it professes.

As you may recall at George W. Bush’s behest the lawyers of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) connived a way to make torture permissible. OLC asserted that since the protocols and international laws established by the Geneva Convention only apply to lawful combatants of nation states, terrorist were unlawful combatants since they were not nation state fighters, therefore, the international laws governing the humane treatment of prisoners of war didn’t apply.

Moreover, OLC advised the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Department, and the President that the set of enhanced interrogation techniques presented to them would be legally permissible under an expansive interpretation of presidential authority.

The media reports very little, if at all, our government’s policy of extraordinary rendition. A procedure where captured terrorist are sent to secret CIA prisons (black sites) in other countries where torture goes beyond the legal limits permissible under enhanced interrogation.

Following the release of the Senate torture report, President Obama declared that the revelations in the report were “contrary to who we are.” Others have expressed the same sentiment.
Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq showing Pvt. Lynndie England 
holding a leash attached to a prisoner 
collapsed on the floor, known to the guards as "Gus."
Credit: U.S. military or Department of Defense
Copyright: Public Domain

The President, and all those who share his view are naïve, knowingly not telling the truth, or in a state of denial. The fact is that our country has practiced torture as a necessity of war throughout our history and Americans casually accept torture -- in this case enhanced interrogation just like they accept collateral damage -- as just a part of war.

Even though there are real patriots who bravely put themselves on the line and spoke out, a significant number of Americans chose to praise those who were performing such horrendous acts as patriots.

A new Pew Research survey finds that over half of Americans believe that torture is justified.

So here is the crux of the problem. As the Pew survey suggests, and as Peter Beinart says, “those actions were not ‘contrary to who we are… Torture Is Who We Are.’”

Regarding the Torture Report, Andrew Bacevich rightfully predicts, it’s “… a little public slap on the hand, after which an ever-so-quiet return to business as usual will ensue.”

But the worst part is that the situation will not change as long as a majority of Americans believe that war and subsequently torture is necessary and there “were [no] errors at all.”

America’s fatal addiction to war and torture is well on its way to evolving the principles set forth in our founding documents that in the end will destroy us.