Only You Can Prevent Torture

Lest everything here seem to be frivolity and light, the next few days are critical call-your-senators time. The moral future of this country hangs in the balance. President Bush has been pushing strongly to convince Congress to pass a bill that would authorize waterboarding, induced hypothermia, prolonged physical stress combined with sleep deprivation, and other forms of torture. The administration prefers to call them “alternative procedures,” a euphemism that will soon, like “ethnic cleansing,” become a common term of opprobrium for the practice it sought to whitewash. But torture they are.

Moral superiority is civilization’s best form of resistance to terrorism, but it only works if we are morally upright, not if we merely claim to be. If the president’s bill becomes law, we will not be men but monsters.

Senator McCain has offered an alternative bill that is only marginally better. It would purport to outlaw such techiques and to regularize the system of military commissions into something slightly less of a kangaroo court. But, like the president’s bill, it would attempt to end any practical hope of judicial review for detainees. Judicial review brought us the possibility of taking a moral stand; it has allowed those tortured and convicted without rational process to ask that the United States obey its own laws. Without judicial review, we have only the good faith of the executive to assure us that torture is not the routine practice of the United States government. That same good faith brought us secret CIA prisons and Abu Ghraib.

In short, the McCain “alternative” will be, in this administration’s hands, just as much of an empty promise as the administration’s own bill. The hypocrisy will be one step further removed from public consciousness, but it will remain.

The House has approved the administration’s bill, without apparent thought or qualm. Only the Senate remains between the United States and moral disaster. Call your senators and ask them to do all they can to oppose both the administration bill and its putative “alternative.”


Moral superiority is civilization’s best form of resistance to terrorism, but it only works if we are morally upright, not if we merely claim to be. If the president’s bill becomes law, we will not be men but monsters.

I think what’s galling me the most about this seemingly-appealing statement is that it seems to imply that our (i.e. the United States’) use of torture/terrorism is a recent historical aberration. It is not (just to point out a relatively recent example - should I bring up the matter of smallpox-infected blankets?) I don’t agree that the moral future of the country hangs in the balance; if there were ever a time when we as a nation could take the moral high ground (and I suspect that time, if it ever occurred, was back before we had sufficient geopolitical clout to abuse any of our neighbors), we have long since missed out on our opportunity to retain it.

Oddly enough, though I deplore the fact that we (like any powerful nation) are willing to do whatever we can get away with in order to maintain our primacy, I am almost glad to see us do a little less lying to ourselves about it. The fact is, we are attached to a monstrous entity, one that does and has done horrific things in our name and to our (short-term) benefit.


Fair enough. I don’t mean to imply that the United States has a clean record. It’s just that if the president’s bill becomes law, evil qua evil will be official national policy. If either bill does, it will be a great deal harder for many years to roll back the specific evils that have become unofficial national policy.

Be sure to take a look at

and try to sign up nonparticipating schools! it’s a good opportunity to get people to understand the problem.

if the president’s bill becomes law, evil qua evil will be official national policy. If either bill does, it will be a great deal harder for many years to roll back the specific evils that have become unofficial national policy.

Couldn’t one make the argument that as long as this particular evil is not official national policy, it’s very difficult to attack it via any sort of formal process? As long as this (or any other) administration can deny that they have sanctioned or engaged in torture (since the law of the land clearly says they must not), then the burden of proof is upon the accuser. What’s more, even if, say, someone was to obtain a judgment against the Bush administration (either from the courts or from Congress; I realize I’m using handwavy terms here), couldn’t future administrations simply claim that the Bush administration was an aberration, and so attempts to get future administrations to stop using torture will be starting from square one?

Is it more difficult to strike down a law or to curtail an unofficial practice?

On the other hand, once the law of the land states that it is permissible for the executive branch to use torture on suspects, that seems to me like a visible target that could be attacked continuously. At the very least, it might be possible to use the issue to make Americans face up to the fact that our government tortures people; even if we can’t make them stop (which, frankly, I do not believe we can do without fundamental change in how governance works in America), at the very least it might force public discourse to become slightly less hypocritical.


As long as torture remains illegal, the torturers will always know that they could be prosecuted or sued for their crimes. A future administration could claim that the Bush administration was a abberation—but in so doing, it could also attempt to imprison those who made it an abberation. If torturers’ immunity becomes duly-enacted law, we can never later hold them to account—the Constitution’s prohibition on ex post facto lawmaking will stand in the way.

I agree that a visible policy of torture might be politically useful in forcing public confrontation with this difficult issue. But I think that by targeting redress for torture, the two bills currently in the Senate are directly designed to cut off such debate by preventing the raising of these questions.

I wish that things had not come to this pass. There have been many terrible and shameful deeds along the way. All I am saying is that as between the options presented by these bills, I think that rejecting both is morally the best response.

Since this Asshat never did any time in the military, he doesn’t realize that this proposal scares the shite out of the troops. There asses will be tortured ALL OVER THE GLOBE if we break yet another treaty because the president (no I will NOT capitalize it while bonehead’s still in office) deems it inconvenient. Torture a person and you can get them to tell you the Holocaust never happened. They’ll tell you they were whatever you needed them to be. Torture is the single LEAST effective tactic (HIGHLY UNRELIABLE, not to mention morally corrupt!) anyone has in questioning people. There are times when this country has stooped to that level and I’m sure whoever did it thought they were justified at the time, but the momentary gain (if any) causes irreparable damage to this country’s international reputation and moral superiority (the thin shell we cling to when dealing in international matters), which is already looking really bad with King George throwing his weight around and demanding everything without compromise. I seriously doubt that Colin Powell quit cause he was ready to. He quit cause they went around him to declare dibs on the oil (I mean WAR) with Iraq. They STRAIGHT OUT LIED ABOUT al qaeda’s “phantom friendship” with Hussein and let Osama go through the passes and escape Tora Bora by bribing his way across the border through the local leaders sent in to get him (rather than American troops WHO WERE RIGHT THERE). They lied about the war and the forgotten WMD’s, let Osama go (so they could justify an extended no bid game of contracts to make their friends rich), and I believe they did it intentionally for the second term fight. They manipulated and buried the Downing street memo in favor of the 2 or three pieces of intelligence that falsely stated WMD’s and they knew it.

   My real question is this:  How do they look at themselves every day in the mirror (talking about the Neo-CONS now) and not die from the blinding Hypocrisy that stares back?!!  How do they justify legally impeaching a man for lying about a Blow Job and support a man who think tens of thousands of foreign lives and 3000+ American lives wasted, to make the upper 7000 richest families of this nation richer, is completely acceptable!?!?  I am ashamed every time I look and read the news.  We broke with the Kyoto Accord because it would cut into oil profits, we broke with the United Nations (which effectively turned them into the shadow of the League of Nations leaving them ridiculing us and being completely ineffective) because cowboy king george had a bone to pick and money to make.  We ignored the most learned people in international society (The UN Inspection team), alienated our “allies” (who were that cause they were browbeaten into supporting the allied good even if it was with a marginal token of troops), threatened innocent lives with a blind excuse of rampant nationalism, and now are trying to ask to break the holy grail of all treaty’s, the Geneva Convention, which, by the way, was create SPECIFICALLY!!!!!!!! To ban torture and ensure humane treatment to POW’s.

   This ad-menstruation has turned the bill of rights into a joke, they end run around the Judiciary checks and balances (which is precisely why there are THREE distinct branches of Government in this Nation).  They have the run of Congress and still won’t raise the minimum wage as it will hurt the BIG companies too much (yet senators and Representatives have complete health care for the rest of their lives and a guaranteed wage increase at least twice that of the standard rate of inflation).  They gut national health care and shame the poor into working for Wal-Mart (which doesn’t pay overtime and won’t let anyone who is hourly work more than 25-30 hours per week so as to be able to label them as Part-Time employees thusly denying them ANY HEALTH CARE) who also teaches their employees how to apply for welfare and medical assistance because 50% of the work force is at or below the national poverty level!  

   In effect, the past 6 years (the last 4 have been especially negative, hello Republican congress) have been the worst for this nation’s supposed equality, skyrocketing inflation, oil monopoly and over-gouging price fixing (while STILL being heavily subsidized by tax dollars regardless of the LARGEST RECORD BREAKING PROFITS OF ALL TIME!!!!), no-bid contract abuse, filthy political games which hurt and kill Americans and others, and the inception of acceptable fascism in a democracy all wrapped in the American flag and forced down our throats.  This country has become seriously top heavy and as every seagoing person knows, this is the single biggest lead in to capsizing.  

   Every nation in history has come to their zenith only to be brought down by corrupt rulers and the inevitable polarization of wealth.  EVERY NATION!  EVERY EMPIRE!  EVERY TIME!  We have precious little time to get george off the helm and to right this sinking ship.  This may have once been the greatest nation in the world, but the greed is starting to erode the caulking on the hull and we are listing badly to the right.

The real problem is the full steam ahead mentality demanded by corporate America, the government’s bedfellows, and the fact that none of them, not one, believes in icebergs. America can be the greatest country in the world, but even the greatest country can go astray and become a graveyard.

Remember, the Titanic was also unsinkable.