Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Defending the Indefensible

Here is an excerpt from one of the confessions of an “enemy combatant” that claimed to be tortured by US interrogators. Read it and then please consider how it makes you feel as an American, not a Republican or a Democrat, but just as an American.

“PRESIDENT (of the tribunal): Please describe the methods that were used.

DETAINEE: (CENSORED) What else do I want to say? (CENSORED) There were doing so many things. What else did they did? (CENSORED) After that another method of torture began. (CENSORED) They used to ask me questions and the investigator after that used to laugh. And, I used to answer the answer that I knew. And if I didn’t replay what I heard, he used to (CENSORED).”[1]

Officials defended this censorship by arguing that interrogation methods are so secret that they cannot be discussed, even by the prisoner. But they also said that Al Qaeda members are trained to claim torture and that Mr. Nashiri lied. If so, why censor the transcript? His answers can’t help Al Qaeda. Tragically, the most likely answer is to spare United States intelligence agents and their bosses, who could face charges if the Military Commissions Act is ever repealed or rewritten. The law gives a retroactive carte blanche to American interrogators for any abuse they may have committed.[2]

How can any person who respects the freedom and rights of humans defend this type of behavior? Have we become so afraid after 9/11 that we are willing to condone any type of behavior in the name of fighting terrorism? If we continue to follow this path; what will separate us from them? It is a slippery slope that we are on folks and I believe that once we start down this slope it will be difficult if not impossible to turn back.

While the loss of 2,973 Americans[3] is tragic and unjustified under any conditions, can we now justify holding 6.6 billion people hostage as a result? We have declared war not only on the terrorists but on the whole world as well. When we start using the language of “either you are with us or against us” we force the world and ourselves to either accept everything we do or “embolden the terrorists”. Life despite what some in this administration would like us to believe is never that black and white. By defining the struggle in those terms we declare war on ourselves and our democracy. No one said having a democracy would be easy, no one said defending a democracy would be easy either. Living in a democracy we put our beliefs to the test every day. Those beliefs include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We believe that these are unalienable rights granted by a beneficent Creator.

I do not believe that the way you defeat evil is with evil. I do not believe that the way you save a democracy is with a dictatorship. We have to kill the democracy to save it? I am not following that logic. As a democracy we have to maintain the high ground even when that high ground is difficult. I submit that it is when democracy is the toughest to defend, is when it must be defended the more. There are those who want to take shortcuts and easy outs to defeat this invisible enemy, but there are none. It is frustrating fighting a war without borders or an enemy with no state, but we will not defeat this enemy by might. We can only win this war by our ideals and our leadership, not by torture and injustice. This administration has lost the high ground in this war. By condoning torture and turning this into a war of cultures they have lowered our standing not just with our enemies, but with our allies as well. In the long run how we choose to defend our democracy will determine if we save our democracy. You will never know love, until the unlovable shows up. Anyone can love the cute kitten, but it is the wolf that truly tests our doctrine of love. Some people believe that democracy cannot survive terrorism; I believe that terrorism cannot survive a true democracy. One thing that the fall of communism should have taught us is that everyone wants to live in freedom. That freedom is defined in different ways by different people, but isn’t that what freedom is. We cannot expect everyone’s freedom to look like ours nor compel them to make it so. All that we can do is to promote an atmosphere where freedom in any form can flourish. That process though must begin at home with us, we must say no to those who want to lead us astray from democracy in the name of war. Torture can never be condoned under any circumstances in a democracy. By resorting to torture we are demonstrating to our enemies and our friends that democracy does not work or that our belief in it is not real. They can then tell their potential converts, “See we told you it was not genuine or that it will not work.” Our country has been the greatest experiment in human history. Can people from so many different backgrounds come together for a common cause and live in peace?

There is a principle in our system of justice that states it is better to let nine guilty men go free, than to punish one innocent man. We do not always live up to that ideal, but it is that goal that separates us from those who choose to attack us. The system of secret prisons, torture, and state sponsored kidnappings must end. Our continued use of places like Guantanamo and imprisonment without any redress undermines our democracy not only in the world, but at home as well. Our domestic policies that place everyone under the umbrella of suspicion are not the answer to terrorism. I say that it is these policies, not the questioning of them, which in fact are emboldening the terrorist. The more they can change our democracy into a fascist system the more they win. We must stop defending the indefensible.


[2] Ibid


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