As an American citizen I am appalled by the recent release of the Senate’s report on CIA torture (or, as the Orwellian government department known as the Central Intelligence Agency likes to call it, “enhanced interrogation techniques”). It is not that it is that surprising. Everyone knew that as the White House (Bush, Cheney, and their Cabinet members), the military, and others in government were denying the use of torture techniques that we were at the same time torturing prisoners in the hope of garnering some sort of valuable information on our enemies. It was one of those open secrets where everyone knew it was happening while the government and its agents engaged in “plausible deniability” (a term coined by the CIA back in the 1960s), subterfuge, and outright lies.
I am horrified that we would treat other human beings this way, regardless of the reason for it, what kind of enemy combatants they might be, or what intelligence is gathered by it. It is, plain and simple, wrong. It is state-sponsored terrorism aimed at an individual rather than an entire populace. There is no place for it. The United States used to be a leader in the international struggle for human rights. We were among the leaders in designing agreements to eliminate torture, oppression, and war crimes worldwide. We used to have a moral leg to stand on and now we can stand on nothing. Our credibility is shattered. That is the other horrifying thing about this. Others can now simply ignore us when we talk of human dignity, when we demand human rights from countries that oppress their citizens or torture their enemies. Who are we to demand anything when we cannot abide by international agreements that we signed onto or even helped design? How can we now call for justice when others torture or kill our citizens? If we are a Christian country as so many of our leaders claim then we are destined to be the victims of “an eye for an eye” because of our own actions.
We have led war tribunals and convicted the leaders of other countries for crimes that are similar to what we have done in our “enhanced interrogation techniques”. How can we refuse to extradite George Bush and Dick Cheney, among others, when countries that have worked alongside us come to us and demand they be tried for war crimes? I don’t think we can and I don’t think we should.
As an American citizen I do not want my name associated with the behavior outlined in the Senate report on torture. My government tortured prisoners but they did not do so with the consent of me or the majority of this country’s citizens. This is not the kind of government I want. It is not the kind of government most of us want. It does not represent who we are as a people. I find it abhorrent and disavow the actions undertaken in the name of this country and its people. When we have lost our moral compass and have traveled so far from our roots because of it those in power cannot say they were acting on behalf of the American people.
Unfortunately, we also cannot change the past. The crimes have been committed. We cannot undo what has been done. But we can look toward the future. We can work to make sure it never happens again. We need to make sure that it does not. We need to make sure there are reparations of some kind to the victims or their families. We need to make sure those responsible are held accountable for their actions and serve as an example to future generations to show that we as a people will not tolerate those acting in our names committing these kinds of acts. We must work toward transparency and we must do whatever we can to ensure that the government abides by all international agreements.
I do not know what laws may be proposed to guarantee that our government will no longer engage in these kinds of actions in the future or to try to make up for what already happened. If something is proposed I strongly encourage you to sign onto it and support it through the process of becoming law. If nothing is proposed by others then I plead with you as a representative beholden to the people to draft a bill that will do so and secure support for it. If we don’t do something now then we have not only lost our way for one moment of our history, we have lost our destiny and are well on our way to our own decline and fall.