Get serious about torture

October 25, 2007

Watching the second Republican presidential debate nearly made me vomit. All save one of the hopefuls gleefully wrapped their arms around torture and received uproarious applause for doing so. Especially Mitt “phony bologna” Romney with his “I would double Guantanamo” declaration. Far from simply affirming his status as a pandering asshat, Romney was channeling a sentiment that is spreading like a deadly infection: the notion that it’s somehow acceptable to rough up some Arabs to save American lives.

Andrew Sullivan, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of the administration’s interrogation policy, tells the gut-wrenching story of how this country came to sanction torture and lost itself as a result, not just in spite of good intentions, but because of them. This piece is an absolute must-read.

Leave aside whether torture obtains reliable intelligence (it doesn’t). Leave aside whether it creates the right image abroad (it doesn’t). Leave aside whether it’s technically legal (it’s not). Leave aside whether adopting the practice encourages laziness and ineptitute in interrogators (it does).

It all boils down to this: keeping our Constitution and our core values intact is worth American lives. Each of us should be willing to risk death to preserve what makes us who we are. We are a people who believe that each person should be free to live his life unless and until a fair process determines that he is a threat to others. Our ancestors decided long ago that they would sooner die than live under a dictatorship or a police state, so they built a system with inalienable rights and checks-and-balances to ensure that we remained truly free. This freedom has been born from from the blood of countless souls willing to sacrifice themselves to ensure that liberty took root and maintained its legacy. When the executive has the power to surveil, arrest, detain, and torture anyone at will, and when we as a people, through either our endorsement or our silence, give it license to do so, we are killing freedom. We are killing what makes us, us. And nothing, especially not a desperate band of petty Islamist thugs, is worth breaking that legacy. Without liberty, life isn’t worth living.

Responding to advocates of “enhanced” or “coercive” interrogation (AKA “torture” to those of us who see the Orwellian, Gestapo-esque euphemisms for what they really are), Sullivan drives the point home:

There are some things worse than avoiding all casualties in warfare. One of those things is abandoning the core meaning of what a country and a civilization stand for. If America does not stand against the torture of individuals seized without due process by an unchecked executive power, then American stands for nothing. In fact, if this standard had applied two centuries ago, America would not exist at all. The president takes an oath not to prevent any American life from being lost in wartime, but to protect and defend the Constitution which is the sole guarantor of such liberty. Churchill upheld that rule, even as London was reduced to rubble and hundreds of thousands of mother’s children were lost. Washington made it a central hallmark of the meaning of his new republic. To destroy the constitution, the rule of law, and habeas corpus and to legalize torture in the false hope of saving lives is the action of those who do not understand freedom and who do not understand America. It is the action of cowards and slaves.

What part of “Live Free Or Die” do these people not understand?


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