Over the past two weeks the U.S. Senate has been conducting the confirmation hearings for Alberto Gonzales and Condi Rice. Much has been made about the lack of fitness for these two to hold any office, but naturally they will be confirmed.
However, the thing has most astonished me is the irony of our country being forced to have any discussion at all about the topic of torture. We have high government officials sparring over the definition of torture, and a White House Counsel (and Attorney General Designee) who has contorted into a pretzel trying to justify ignoring the Geneva Convention and the U.S. legal definition of torture.
Most certainly terrorists are bad people. It would be very easy to say they deserve whatever they get. It’s hard for me to not feel that way. But this is an attitude that has the danger of taking us down the proverbial "slippery slope". Henry Ward Beecher said, "Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength."
First, we have not found a single person we are holding as "enemy combatants" guilty of any crime. Clearly the previous Attorney General hasn’t been in any hurry to get these people to any sort of judicial review. Could it be that they know their cases are too weak?
We as a country are arrogant enough to go around the world imposing our system of justice and law on other countries. Ronald Reagan? proclaimed the United States that shining city on the hill, and we all frankly take a holier than thou attitude as regards our legal system and believing we are the final arbitors of human rights.
So why are we even having to have this discussion about a definition of "torture?" Why are we having discussions about who is elegible for the protections afforded under the Geneva Conventions? How has this great country, which supposedly based its election of George W. on issues of morality, come to this place. We are splitting hairs over these definitions, and we should be, without discussion, simply treating people in a humane and fair way.
As the country that has, more than most, taken the high road in terms of human rights, I’m distressed that my country is now trying to find legal justification for torture and denial of due process. We have previously been the country that demand civilized behavior from the other leaders of the world. We were the great liberators of Europe in WW II…American soldiers welcomed as heros everywhere they went. Now we’re despised around the world, and no longer the country to which the people of the rest of the world can turn for protection.
We must get over this attitude that somehow torture is okay in certain circumstances. Instead of trying to see how to pass the camel through the eye of the needle, we should err on the side of caution. I assure you we are holding people that have no connection to any terrorist activity. We must bring charges against the people we are holding, and let our system of jurisprudence run its course. In order to claim any level of confidence in our judiciary, we must be able entrust it with the prosectution of terrorists. How have we allowed these kinds of people to be setting policies like this for United States? Where is the moral outrage that every person in this should be feeling?