Saturday, November 03, 2007

Painful truths about torture

You know what really hurts when thinking about how President Bush ordered agents of the United States to engage in torture?

Obviously, the first answer is "the victims of torture". Worse than that are the innocent victims... the Bush administration is not torturing people who we know are terrorists; they are torturing people who they think are terrorists... key words are "they" and "think", however painful it is to use "think" to describe mental activity by the Bushies. We don't know that the victims are terrorists, and they don't know either. They think so... but do we even need to talk about Bushie incompetence these days? They might think someone is a terrorist, but they've made so many mistakes by now that we can be sure of this: they've tortured innocent people, and probably quite a large number of them.

And that's painful, and it's awful, but there's something that is, in some ways, a little more painful.

Every single person who obeyed his orders has violated the law, and is criminally liable. These people can go to jail. Many of them were well meaning people, and I bet many of them intended to refuse any unlawful orders, but were swept up in the zeitgeist.

Worse, if word got out about what the United States has done, it could stir up more anger against us.

So I can easily imagine people trying to keep it hidden. "Yes, it was terrible that it happened, but look at the horrible things that will happen if we let people know the truth!"

There's a huge flaw in this reasoning. If those terrible things do not happen, the next cruel and foolish President we have will be willing to use torture again, and say "It's not like we didn't do this before!" Having the world pissed off at us, and having people put in jail for their well-meaning following of orders is terrible... knowing that the US could accept torture as the new "normal" is worse.

What's really ugly about this is how slyly the Republicans have manipulated the message on this. They keep talking about how criminal prosecutions of those who committed torture would be oh, so terrible to those noble men and women who just wanted to keep us safe. And they completely ignore that it was President George W. Bush who put them in that position... who gave them the orders, and claimed to give them the authority, to break the law.

They didn't have to follow those unlawful orders, but they shouldn't have been given those orders in the first place. They should have had a President who had common sense and enough courage and moral strength to reject torture. It was horribly unfair that they were put in that position... but it's now clear that many of them chose to violate the law.

If any of them are prosecuted, it won't be because of those horrible meanies who insist that the law be followed. It will be because of their own choices, and because of the choices of George W. Bush.

I feel bad for people who, in good faith, violated the law, and must now be punished. I hate that it could turn out this way. But then I think about a country that would torture people in secret, and then refuse to punish the torturers, and I hate that even more.

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