Monday, September 25, 2006

A Policy of Torture

In addition to the moral argument that torture is simply wrong, there are the logical arguments that it does not provide real or useful information, that it exposes our own forces to the same treatment, and that it causes the world to “doubt the moral basis” of our war on terrorism.

There is another, chilling argument provided by Vladimir Bukovsky, who spent nearly 12 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps. He writes in the Washington Post on Dec 18, 2005

“Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one's sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists.”

He describes seeing that happen in the Soviet Union, it was called the NKVD which the current generation came to know as the KGB. And he goes on,

“So, why would democratically elected leaders of the United States ever want to legalize what a succession of Russian monarchs strove to abolish? Why run the risk of unleashing a fury that even Stalin had problems controlling? (…) I have no answer to these questions, but I do know that if Vice President Cheney is right and that some "cruel, inhumane or degrading" (CID) treatment of captives is a necessary tool for winning the war on terrorism, then the war is lost already.”

Vladimir Bukovsky has the courage to stand opposed to a nation’s adoption of torture as a policy, a policy to which he was subjected; to stand without flinching no matter how popular or otherwise his position may be.

John McCain was subjected to a similar policy, suffered greatly without surrender, and yet today his overwhelming lust for high office leads him to put aside his past experience and his moral compass, and causes him to bow to the imperatives of partisan politics by engaging in the rhetoric of deception rather than standing on his principles.

McCain claims that the so-called compromise between the “dissident” senators and the administration preserves and protects our adherence to the Geneva Convention, but anyone with half a brain can see that it does nothing of the sort.

Where is our leadership? Where is anyone in public life in America with the courage and conviction of a Vladimir Bukovsky?

Colin Powell emerged from obscurity in support of McCain’s initial objection to the Bush administration bill contravening the Geneva Convention, penning his oft-quoted letter with it’s line about the world “beginning to doubt the moral basis of our war on terror.” But when McCain and Company abandoned their position and Powell saw that he had no support he retreated back to the safety of obscurity. Powell has high standards, but it appears that he lacks the moral courage to stand up for them under fire.

Powell’s argument, though unpursued, for me is still the right one because it goes to the moral value of the practice. Torture is wrong, and it diminishes the moral basis of the person or nation that engages in it.

Vladimir Bukovsky has lived where the freedom of man did not exist, and so values it in a way that we, who have grown up taking it for granted, cannot. Perhaps that is the source of his courage. Perhaps he is the better man for having lived without that for which our leaders seem so unwilling to stand up and speak to defend.

No comments:

Post a Comment