Monday, August 4, 2008

Has the war on terror gone too far?


New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer's new book chronicles the use of torture by the CIA, as witnessed by the Red Cross. She says while the U.S. tried to wrest
information from terrorist suspects, Bush administration officials maintained the extreme threat of attack allowed an extreme response.

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I heard Jane Mayer interviewed on Midmorning on Minnesota Public Radio today about her new book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. I'm pretty cynical about the current administration's policies in general, but even I was stunned by some Mayer's revelations in this interview. She said she has been working on gathering the threads of this story together since 9-11, and from the accounts I've seen she's used some really impressive sources for her information.

I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot where I worked in the days following 9-11, listening to a member of W's administration say on NPR via San Diego's KPBS radio that if we caught people suspected of being involved in planning the attacks of 9-11, he believed the use of torture could be justified to ensure no more lives were lost. I remember my jaw dropping and a swirling like vertigo in the pit of my stomach as I contemplated the United States excusing the use of torture.

We are better than that. We MUST be better than that. And yet I was hearing otherwise. And worse, I heard very little about it for several years afterward, as the topic failed to really hit the radar of the media for far too long. I know I heard him say it. I'm still trying to figure out who "he" was, as my memory seems to have misfiled his name (probably due to the horror of hearing him say what he had said at all.) I discussed it later that morning with several of my coworkers, who - if memory serves - didn't believe that even W's people would actually go that far. Someone would stop them. Wouldn't they?

MPR makes many of their interviews available to stream a day or so after they air them, and I hope this interview with Jane Mayer is one of them. But more to the point, I will be buying and reading this book. I urge everyone to read it. Whether you buy it (or the audiobook), borrow it from a friend, or check it out of your library (if they have it), we need to know what our government has been doing behind our backs while they tell us over and over on TV that the US does not torture.

As a voter, as an American citizen, and as someone with loved ones in the US military, this is one book I can't imagine not reading. Why do my relatives in the military magnify my concern? Because if We, the United States of America, are known to commit torture, then there is nothing to stop other countries from doing so to our people. And the people most at risk of capture and torture are our troops. The men and women on the ground, serving our country, are in harm's way already. Even if it was somehow morally justifiable or practical* to torture (which I don't believe it is) it just isn't worth the risk to our troops or other citizens abroad to engage in it ourselves. Much less the risk to our position in the global community.

Yet here we are. It happened. We as a nation did this, by electing the current administration and leaving them in power even after their ongoing use of torture and extraordinary rendition came to light.

So now we need everyone to know what our leaders did behind closed doors, in our country's name. If we know, we can shed light on it, and publicly reject it. We must let the world see that we ARE better than our leaders of the last 8 years have made us out to be, by refusing to support any politician or official who was complicit in these shameful, unjustifiable acts - acts which are illegal under the very international laws that the United States helped put in place.

History will tell this story no matter how well its authors try to bury it. We must make it clear with our votes and our voices that we ARE better than this. I didn't vote for W, but as citizens of a representative democracy, we are all only as blameless as those we put (and keep) in power.

Read this book. Face what We have done. And then insist that the next leader in the White House and the next Congress show the world that we CAN be better than we have been.

*Edit: and by "practical" I meant "likely to result in our gaining useful and accurate information." Not fracking likely. Imprison and torture me and I'll tell you anything I think you want to hear to try to make it stop.


k3gg3rs said...

As I understand it, you cannot trust the "intelligence:" you extract from torture. The person on the receiving end will often tell the "interviewer" what ever they want to hear in order for the torture to stop. This is just one reason why you cannot use confessions that were coerced in a US trial. So - again - why do the powers that be think this is a good idea?

Pockafwye said...

@k3gg3rs: As I understand it, you cannot trust the "intelligence:" you extract from torture.

I agree 100%. One of the many reasons that torture is, IMHO, totally unjustifiable.

Jason said...

hear hear on the invalidity of coerced statements... Then let's look at the "detainees" in Guantanamo. Some of those guys have been there 5, 6, 7 years. No rights at all. Is that America's about? Suspension of habeas corpus? Rescinding the "rights [we] hold self-evident"? And what "intelligence" are we REALLY going to gain from someone who's been on a dinky atlantic island for 6 years and hasn't even seen a radio? WTF are we kidding?

Without the moral high ground....we are nothing.