A few days ago, when Michael Mukasey, the U.S. Attorney General nominee, indicated in his Senate confirmation hearing that he did not know whether or not waterboarding was torture, I was dumbfounded and infuriated. Shortly thereafter, I e-mailed senators Schumer and Clinton and asked that they not vote to confirm him until he could give a straight answer to that question. I wrote them that I was not a “good German” and I hoped that they were not either.
Shortly after Mukasey gave his answer, President Bush declared, “America does not torture people.” Sadly, what he meant by that is we do not torture according to our definition of “torture,” and by the way, our definition of torture is classified.
Then there is the practice of “extraordinary rendition” (begun by the Clinton administration and greatly increased after 9/11) where we detain people without charging them and ship them off to secret prisons in other countries where they are tortured for us.
An earlier New York Times editorial pointed out: “Once upon a time, it was the United States that urged all nations to obey the letter and the spirit of international treaties and protect human rights and liberties. American leaders denounced secret prisons where people were held without charges, tortured and killed. And the people in much of the world, if not their governments, respected the United States for its values.”
Sadly, this is no longer the case.
One cannot even make the argument that torture is useful. It does not cause anyone to tell the truth. It just causes prisoners to tell their captors what they want to hear. Torture does not defeat terrorism. It creates terrorists. It is terrorism.
After the attacks of 9/11, Rev. Nathan Baxter said at the service held in the National Cathedral. “Pray for divine wisdom as our leaders consider the necessary actions for national security, wisdom of the grace of God--that as we act we not become the evil we deplore.”
It’s not too late to pray that prayer and more. I refuse to be a “good German.” I hope you do as well.
©2007 C. David Hess