Countless conservatives that I have spoken to about the Bush Administration’s “War on Terror” make the claim that the men in places like Guantanamo Bay are “evil” or “terrorists” and thus, their treatment was justified (say “was” because their treatment now is supposed to conform to that prescribed in the Geneva Conventions). They are careful not to use the word “torture” and tellingly, do not dispute my use of that word when describing what transpired at places like Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib.
The idea, I think, is that these actions were necessary for the sake of national security, preventing another terrorist attack, waging war, and perhaps even retaliating for 9/11. But in talking to some of these people, it is clear they lack important information about what our torture regime looked like, who authorized and implemented it, and who was subject to it. In other words, it is assumed that anyone who was in Guantanamo or a related site, was guilty and deserved to be there. That simply is not true.
And what is worse, is that many apologists for our actions fail to recognize that despite what they say and believe, torturing prisoners did not make us safer. Just because we have not suffered another attack does not mean that our torture policies are responsible for that fact. That is not to say that some good intelligence was not gathered through this program, but studies and personal experiences (see John McCain) have consistently showed that evidence and information gathered from use of torture is seldom reliable. And furthermore, by torturing people who had no previous intent to harm America or its inhabitants, we have likely created enemies where before there were none. Finally, the use of torture has severely weakened the rule of law in this country and our moral standing throughout the world. That poses significant risks of further degradation of our Constitution and values should there be another attack.
With that, I will pass this post along to Andrew Sullivan over at The Atlantic, who has written a “letter to President Bush”, in which he discusses in further detail that which I have touched on here. It is a great piece and I implore everyone, regardless of political affiliation, to read it. Here is a snippet in which Sullivan remarks on how torturing people conflicts with Christian ideals:
But torture has no defense whatsoever in Christian morality. There are no circumstances in which it can be justified, let alone integrated as a formal program within a democratic government. The Catholic catechism states, “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions… is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” Dignity is the critical word there. Even evil men are human and redeemable. Our faith demands that, even in legitimate punishment or interrogation, the dignity of prisoners must be respected. Our faith teaches that each of us—even Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—is made in the image of God. To violate that imago Dei by stripping and freezing him, by slamming him against a wall, or strapping him to a board to nearly drown him again and again and again, to bombard him with noise and light until he loses his mind, to reduce a human being to a mental and spiritual shell—nothing can justify this for a Christian. Nothing. To wield that power is to wield evil. And such evil is almost always committed by those who believe they are pursuing good.