May 252009
 

I continue to be baffled by the arguments in favor of torture, and the justifications that are made for America’s use of torture. Darth Cheney claims that it “kept us safe” by providing actionable intelligence allowing the U.S. to subvert terrorists plots. We know this to be untrue…in some cases, it had just the opposite effect.

Newt Gingrich is claiming it was all OK because Nancy Pelosi was briefed on it. Well, there is no provision in the Constitution that says a law can be circumvented by briefing someone in Congress.

The subversion of the Constitution and the rule of law should be troubling to every American, but I think I am most disturbed by our behavior from my moral and Christian perspective.

When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaida terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry…. These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek. –Former Vice President Dick Cheney, February 4, 2009

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. –Jesus, Luke 6:27-31.

These two opposing statements by former Vice-President Dick Cheney and Jesus Christ bring into sharp focus the contradictions of being a country that simultaneously lays claim to Judeo Christian values while going to any lengths to protect and preserve the American empire – including torture. What does the practice of torture by our government say about those of us who are American Christians?

The great biblical evangelists Paul and Steven were tortured, but continued to profess what they believe. They never used violence or coercion to spread the faith; rather people came to Jesus in part because of the non-violent Christian witness of the early members.

And lest we forget, it was Jesus who was himself tortured and killed. Early Christians espoused love in the face of hate, generosity in the face of theft, blessings for curses, and turning the cheek in the face of violence. They did this not out of weakness, but out of strength.

George Bush and other professing Christians succumbed to the temptation of perceived expediency to employ torture in order to try to create the non-existent link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Dick Cheney says “these are evil people” as a way to justify torture. But Christians have dealt with evil people before and Jesus taught us explicitly that evil is never overcome by evil; it is over come by Good. Plus, Jesus’ words in Luke 6 – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – have a chilling resonance when it comes to torture.

Torture PhotoA recent Pew Center survey indicates that the more a person attends church, the more supportive they tend to be of torture as practiced by the U.S. Government.1 This raises a very serious crisis of faith within my soul, and it makes me fear for the very soul of my country. I fear what is to become of us and our Republic.

Over two years ago I spent time begging the Methodist Episcopacy to condemn American torture. Only five Bishops cared enough to call on Bush to halt the practice of torture.2345 The more one attends church, the greater should be the outrage when one reads comments like Cheney’s. Loyalty to a political cause should not triumph belief in human rights.

Sadly the new century seems to have changed our belief that we should be that “shining city on a hill” Regean talked about. We now consider the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions to be quaint and outdated. Defending the abuses by party leaders like Bush, Cheney and their henchmen have become more important that defending the basic human rights we claim to live by. And the media’s lack of calling people out for their hypocrisy has made the situation even worse. Continue reading »


  1. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, April 29, 2009: More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. 

  2. John Masters, “Resolutions By The United Methodist Council of Bishops,” Deep Sand, May 13, 2005 

  3. John Masters, “Another Letter to the U.M. Bishops on Torture,” Deep Sand, June 13, 2005 

  4. John Masters, “Here I Go Again,” Deep Sand, June 16, 2005 

  5. John Masters, “Once Again A Call to Methodist Bishops to Denounce Torture,” Deep Sand, Sept. 28, 2005. 

Waiting For The Black Helicopters

 Congress, Constitution, Politics, Presidency, The Courts  Comments Off on Waiting For The Black Helicopters
Sep 302006
 

Since I’ve been blogging about the abuses, lies and failures of the Bush administration, a former co-worker and good friend used joke with me to, “watch my back,” and that I could expect to find black helicopters hoovering over my house any day now. Others have given me advice, “These people are capable of anything. Stay off small planes, make sure you aren’t being followed.”

I always laughed and shook my head whenever I heard this stuff. Extreme paranoia wrapped in the tinfoil of conspiracy, I thought. This is still America, and these Bush fools will soon pass into history, I thought. I am a citizen, and the First Amendment hasn’t yet been red-lined, I thought.

Matters are different now.

It seems, perhaps, that the people who warned me were not so paranoid. It seems, perhaps, that I was not paranoid enough. Legislation passed by the Republican House and Senate, legislation now marching up to the Republican White House for signature, has shattered a number of bedrock legal protections for suspects, prisoners, and pretty much anyone else George W. Bush deems to be an enemy.

So much of this legislation is wretched on the surface. Habeas corpus has been suspended for detainees suspected of terrorism or of aiding terrorism, so the Magna Carta-era rule that a person can face his accusers is now gone. Once a suspect has been thrown into prison, he does not have the right to a trial by his peers. Suspects cannot even stand in representation of themselves, another ancient protection, but must accept a military lawyer as their defender.

Illegally-obtained evidence can be used against suspects, whether that illegal evidence was gathered abroad or right here at home. To my way of thinking, this pretty much eradicates our security in persons, houses, papers, and effects, as stated in the Fourth Amendment, against illegal searches and seizures.

“Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable – already a contradiction in terms – and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.”      Continue reading »

Administration Seeks to Narrow War Crimes Act

 Congress, Crime, Politics, Presidency, Society, The Courts, War  Comments Off on Administration Seeks to Narrow War Crimes Act
Aug 102006
 

The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a U.S. war crimes law “passed in the mid-1990s that criminalized violations of the Geneva Conventions.” The changes would mean interrogators would no longer face possible prosecution for committing “outrages upon [the] personal dignity” of prisoners. Examples of these “outrages” could include acts “such as the forced nakedness, use of dog leashes and wearing of women’s underwear seen at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.” “This removal of [any] reference to humiliating and degrading treatment will be perceived by experts and probably allies as ‘rewriting'” the Geneva Conventions, said retired Army Lt. Col. Geoffrey S. Corn. “The plan has provoked concern at the International Committee of the Red Cross, the entity responsible for safeguarding the Geneva Conventions.” Two weeks ago, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spoke privately with lawmakers about the need for “protections” against prosecution for “actions taken by U.S. personnel under a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire.”

Do you think that maybe they’re getting afraid they’re all going to jail. They certainly deserve to.? Once again we see an administration incapable of understanding the basic precepts?of what?being American is all about.? Once again, I call on all of you to contact your representatives in Congress, and demand that they do not narrow the definition of war crimes.