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Is There Good Reason For Torture?

By The Reverend Published: December 18, 2008

It has been interesting to listen to the response in the media, whatever little there has been, to the Senate Armed Services Committee report of it's inquiry into the torture inflicted upon detainees in U.S. custody.

Predictable....but interesting, nevertheless.

The basic question, at this point, seems to me to be: Why shouldn't those in the Bush-Cheney regime,....those responsible for approving and ordering torture, those responsible for concocting "legal" justifications for torture, and those actually carrying out the torture....be prosecuted for their crimes?

Is their really a good answer to that question?

The conventional, though hushed, wisdom here seems to be that the extraordinary nature of 9-11, somehow, gave American leaders justification to torture.

Consider the first three minutes of last night's Hardball segment which includes Dick Cheney's "confession" that he not only was aware of the torture, but approved it as a "good decision", and would do so again. Following the Cheney clip is a back and forth between Chris Matthews and Michael Smerconish.....

Smerconish tries to minimize the barbaric practice of torture by saying that "only" 6 al-Qaeda detainees were subjected to it, the most notable being Khalid Sheik Mohammed, mastermind of the 9-11 plot. The phrase "actionable intelligence" is thrown out as justification. If American interrogators, Smerconish says, suspect that a detainee has "actionable intelligence" in his head, then, torture is not only warranted, but required. In addition, Smerconish stated that "no measures should be off limits" when the security of the U.S. is under consideration.....and...."waterboarding works, it worked on KLM."

Chris Matthews debates Smerconish a bit, suggesting that Smerconish's view is a purely nationalistic one. If America does it for national security reasons, no matter what it is, it's acceptable. Sounds a little like Nixon's suggestion that "if the president does it, it's not illegal."

We've been told, repeatedly, that many American lives were spared because of the use of torture. No evidence or facts, yet, prove or disprove that assertion. And, of course, we'll never be allowed to examine any "classified" material on America's use of torture....why?....because, according to those who ordered the torture, that would endanger our "national security." A cul-de-sac logic held by many American political crooks.

If through torture our nation has been kept safe...or safer...how can this be reconciled....

"I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraiband Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse." Link

Summarizing.....the Bush regime shouldn't be prosecuted, in any way, for ordering torture, even though torture is illegal, because torture "works" in getting "actionable intelligence" from those tiny few whom we "suspect" are harboring that "intelligence" in their brains, intelligence that might threaten America's "national security."

Those who produce and write the scripts for teevee's "24" couldn't have said it better.

The irony here, at least for me, is that many conservatives, like Smerconish, insist our nation is not controlled by a "nation of men" but, instead, "a nation of laws." Torture flies in the face of historic American law. In fact, America, in the past, has prosecuted those who have tortured Americans. Is torture something only "good" and "exceptional" nations are privileged to participate in now.....or is it only the "exceptional" nation of the U.S., who, because we alone are exceptional, are allowed to conduct torture?

Questions for discussion....

Shouldn't the FBI have tortured Timothy McVeigh? Waterboarded him? Or, is torture only aceptable if the U.S. conducts it on foreign citizens? Couldn't home grown terrorists be holding "actionable intelligence" in their brains....intelligence we would need to secure national security?

If America claims that they, alone, are exceptional enough to conduct torture "properly", what will be the anticipated response from other countries? If other nations carry out torture against American captives for their own intelligence reasons....should we accept it or should we attack their country in an act of reprisal....and on what grounds?

If extraordinary circumstances automatically create the need to torture, what mechanism should we use to determine how "extraordinary", circumstances have to be.....before torture is required? For example, when Venezuelan's Chavez called Bush the Devil at the U.N....wasn't that an extraordinary statement from a foreign leader suspected of being America's enemy? Should some of Chavez's people be detained and waterboarded in order to find out whether or not there's "actionable intelligence"? After all, Chavez is considered an enemy....perhaps there is a Venezuelan plan out there to do us harm. Never know.

Lets' reason this out.

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