Saturday, May 21, 2005


The stories just keep on coming: The U.S.A. once held a deep aversion to the practice of torture, but now we knowingly ship chosen victims to places where we are certain that they will be tortured, and indeed, we don’t hesitate to practice this dark art ourselves. I can no longer listen to the radio with impunity, because the torture stories are so frequent, and so disgusting, that I must lunge for the ‘off ’ switch, and too often these days, the report is about what we are doing our captives: chaining them to ceilings for days on end; subjecting them to forced near-drowning; beating them for days until they finally die - anyone who would defend these actions is someone devoid of humanity.

It would be inexcusable to treat convicted criminals in these ways, but we seem to think it’s not a big deal to mete out such treatment to those believed to be innocent by those who are torturing them! And could we please lose the word “interrogation” in this context? The word is torture.

Given that we’ve been decreed a “Christian nation” by the extremists who are running things, I ask: What would Jesus do?

Can we imagine Jesus siccing the snarling dog at the naked terrified cornered cowering prisoner?

How long would Jesus hold the man’s head underwater?

Would Jesus have chained the dying man back to the ceiling, or would he have ministered to the man’s wounds and tried to comfort him as he lay dying?

The trouble with war is it brings out the worst in everyone. But the “worst” that we’re now seeing from our own forces is way worse than anything I ever would have imagined, being done in my name. Why are these untrained people given such vast powers over the lives of others with no supervision? Or, are they acting at the behest of their supervisors? Those are the only two available options, and neither is satisfactory: either the supervisors are at fault for ordering such acts, or the supervisors are at fault for inadequately preventing such acts - that’s what the ‘chain of command’ is all about. And yes, those performing the acts are also at fault, but why have their superior officers been so easily exonerated?

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” - it doesn’t get much simpler. If we can no longer comprehend even that basic moral principle, we deserve to lose all that we have. If we do not feel a deep sense of shame, then clearly, we no longer possess a moral compass, and we have ceased to be civilized human beings. Shame, shame, shame.

[The Bush administration’s overwrought response to the Newsweek Koran-flushing story is the worst sort of red herring. There have been numerous well-documented reports of Korans being tossed into toilets in the U.S. military prisons during the past several years, so even if the details of the Newsweek story can be questioned, the substance cannot. This is an act that has been committed in our name, and whether the toilet was subsequently flushed is irrelevent to the point of absurdity.]

“In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates’ Deaths,” by Tim Golden, NY Times, May 20, 2005.

“Army Faltered in Investigating Detainee Abuse,” by Tim Golden, NY Times, May 22, 2005.


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