The New York Times today published an article entitled “Letters Give CIA a Legal Rationale.” It seems that once again, our arrogance as supreme power has given us a method to snub our noses at the Geneva Convention and other international laws that define torture.
What struck me as veery in-ter-restink as Arte Johnson’s character on the late 1960′s comedy “Laugh In” would say is that John McCain has been arguing on both sides of the street for and against torture. Glenn Greenwald, former constitutional lawyer and civil rights litigator on his blog in response to the NYTimes announcement today wrote: ” In September, 2006, McCain made a melodramatic display — with great media fanfare — of insisting that the Military Commissions Act [MCA] require compliance with the Geneva Conventions for all detainees. But while the MCA purports to require that, it also vested sole and unchallenged discretion in the President to determine what does and does not constitute a violation of the Conventions. [bold is Greenwald's] After parading around as the righteous opponent of torture, McCain nonetheless endorsed and voted for the MCA, almost single-handedly ensuring its passage. That law pretends to compel compliance with the Conventions, while simultaneously vesting the President with the power to violate them — precisely the power that the President is invoking here to proclaim that we have the right to use these methods.”
If this isn’t enough in the veery in-ter-restink category, Glenn Greenwald claims in his book Great American Hypocrites which he quotes on his blog, John McCain also is the proponent of another act that allows for torture to occur while pretending that it is opposing torture. Greenwald writes:
In 2005, McCain led the effort in the Senate to pass the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), which made the use of torture illegal. While claiming that he had succeeded in passing a categorical ban on torture, however, McCain meekly accepted two White House maneuvers that diluted his legislation to the point of meaningless: (1) the torture ban expressly applied only to the U.S. military, but not to the intelligence community, which was exempt, thus ensuring that the C.I.A.—the principal torture agent for the United States—could continue to torture legally; and (2) after signing the DTA into law, which passed the Senate by a vote of 90–9, President Bush issued one of his first controversial “signing statements” in which he, in essence, declared that, as President, he had the power to disregard even the limited prohibitions on torture imposed by McCain’s law.”
So what does this all mean? It means that our nation does not torture unless it is in our national interests to do so. Which means we use torture because as Supreme Power- we can; [thumb in ears, waving fingers with tongue stuck out at the rest of the global community]. And it means that John McCain does not deserve to be President because he is a mastermind of melodrama as a ruse to keep our eyes off of what is up his sleeve. No one can be that naive to present legislation as one thing and then allow concessions of this magnitude and not know it makes the legislation not worth the paper it is printed on. He knew and he approved.
McCain aside, the topic of what is and isn’t torture has been in the American conversation before. And we need to look at this a bit deeper than McCain’s protestations and complicity. Paul Kramer wrote for the New Yorker an article entitled “The Water Cure: Debating Torture and Counterinsurgency–A Century Ago.”
A different form of water torture was used then with Filipinos who had thought that we were liberating the Philippines from Spain so they could be an independent and sovereign state. Americans thought that as well, because the rationale used to take American into war with Spain was for “liberation, rescue, and freedom.” [hmmm... I have heard this rationale used recently to go to war withanother country...] When the Filipinos realized that US intention was to assimilate Filipinos into American citizens, they fought back. When they fought back, US soldiers used “the water cure” to gain information from their prisoners. The notion that America used torture brought outrage to the world stage and to Americans. [We then ruled the Philippines for an additional 40 years.] Yet, after a few months of debate Paul Kramer states:
“The public became inured to what had, only months earlier, been alarming revelations. [T]he New York World [ in 1902] described the “American Public” sitting down to eat its breakfast with a newspaper full of Philippine atrocities: It sips its coffee and reads of its soldiers administering the “water cure” to rebels; of how water with handfuls of salt thrown in to make it more efficacious, is forced down the throats of the patients until their bodies become distended to the point of bursting; of how our soldiers then jump on the distended bodies to force the water out quickly so that the “treatment” can begin all over again. The American Public takes another sip of its coffee and remarks, ‘How very unpleasant!’ “
This seems to be the direction that the American public is going with the current ‘is it torture?’ debate. I opened with the statement that America’s arrogance is snubbing our noses at International Law. We have grown arrogant in our location as a Supreme power… I do not use the phrase super power because we are now the only super power in the world and in my mind that makes us Supreme. There is a real danger in playing the Supreme Power role, aka god. Arrogance is only the beginning of the selling of our American soul as supreme power. Such arrogance usually follows with a case of supreme humiliation… Has our world history of the 20th century taught us nothing?
We have an opportunity for repentance. A word that simply means to change directions and head a better way. There is an organization that is seeking to stop torture in the US not just by the US military but also by the CIA called The National Religious Campaign Against Torture or NRCAT. In June they are hoping congregations in every state will display a banner stating “Torture is a Moral Issue” or “Torture is Wrong.” They are seeking to bring this discussion to the national arena to end once and for all this administration’s use of torture and to ensure that torture by any other name is never used again in the name of democracy, freedom, and liberation.
As a people of faith, we must speak to our legislators that euphemistic terms for torture is still torture. That allowing the CIA to torture still means we use torture. We must insist the Executive branch of our government to adhere to International laws regarding international interpretation of defining torture. The Executive branch of our government needs to be held accountable to the constitution and to the laws of the land. The Executive branch must be curtailed in its abuse of power of “signing statements” which have been used to state the law is to be enforced unless the President says otherwise.
We don’t torture unless it’s in our best interests is not an acceptable answer. The ideals of this nation are founded on higher principles than the ole “because I said so” of the Presidents. It is time we begin living up to our calling as a nation dedicated to liberty, and justice for all. We must live up to our calling that Lincoln calls us to as written on his memorial … “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” So may it be… Blessings, Rev. Fred L Hammond