Two Important Stories Today
There are two important stories being reported today, and they are both related. The first is Colin Powell and his continued opposition to the President's torture policy proposals. Ever since the Bush Administration was caught torturing suspects in the war on terror, and the courts rejected his right to do so, he has been pushing for "clarification" in the form of a bill he is trying to push through Congress. However Powell (as well as McCain and others) has strongly opposed the bill, which would allow for many actions that the international community would define as torture.
Powell was dismissed by the Bush Administration as being out of touch, so Powell came back to explain his position. He claims that this is not just a policy issue, but a moral issue. I agree 100%. Powell also has argued that our own troops will be in danger if we don't uphold the Geneva Conventions. I also 100% agree.
What we seem to forget is that our troops get captured by the enemy as well, and part of what protects them is the very conventions the Bush Administration is flouting. How will we ensure they are not tortured, and how will we hold accountable those who torture our troops, if we don't uphold those standards ourselves? One of these days one of our troops will be tortured (maybe even using the "clarifications" the Bush Administration wants) and we will not have a leg to stand on. This is about protecting our troops, and people forget that.
The other problem with torturing captives is that it simply is not effective. People will say anything under torture, and we may have no real way of determining the validity of what they say. Personally I know that I would pretty much confess to anything if I was tortured enough.
A great example of this is the second important story today. Maher Arar is a Canadian citizen who became a victim of the post 9/11 intelligence fiascos. He was suspected of being a terrorist sympathizer, and he was arrested in the United States while changing planes. Now in any normal country with a moral compass and a rule of law, he would have been charged with something and explained his rights, and been able to contact a lawyer. But we don't live in a country that follows the rule of law or has a moral compass. So instead he was flown to Jordan, and then driven to Syria for interrogation.
Now my first question is this... Why Syria? Are their interrogators much more skillful than ours? Do they do a better job? Why are Syrian interrogators better than American interrogators? Well the answer of course is simple, they are good at torturing suspects, and we still feel better having someone else do it for us. So Arar was tortured in a Syrian prison in our name until he confessed to training in Afghanistan, and being a terrorist. He was then locked away in a small cell for 10 months without any charges and without access to legal advice.
Let me state this clearly, he was a regular Canadian citizen, and he was given NO rights at all.
So what happened? Well it turned out he was innocent, never had been to Afghanistan, and is not a terrorist. We the American people stole a year of his life, put him through hell, all because we suspected he might be a terrorist. Personally I am deeply ashamed and horrified that this is being done in my name.
We should not torture because it is the moral thing to do. We should not torture because we don't want our own troops to be tortured. We should not torture because it is ineffective and gives bad information. We should not torture because it ruins lives. We should not torture because we become less as a people when we allow this to be done in our name.