America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for. "This government does not torture people," declared former President Bush, but it did, and all the world knows it. And the only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible.
our shameful foray into torture is yet another example that Krugman just gets it. Frankly, I can't help but think that this country would be much better off if Krugman was this nation's COO to Barack Obama's CEO. If nothing else, the trains would be running on time. And we'd be a lot more honest about our national shame.I've made no secret of my admiration for Paul Krugman, who is by definition the smartest man in any room he happens to be occupying. An economist by trade, his analysis of our current economic dilemma is generally spot-on, but he also possesses a finely-tuned moral compass that reflects what I've always felt to be the things that make America the great nation is is, once was, and can still be. His argument vis-a-vis
We as a nation have reached a point where we've little choice but to face an ugly, unpleasant, and frankly embarrassing truth- despite all assertions to the contrary by our previous sorry excuse for a President/human being, America tortures. Quite a lot, actually. Despite our alleged respect for international law, the rules of war, and our myriad treaty obligations, our government has engaged in prolonged, egregious, and inhuman violations of human rights on an epic scale. To call this a stain upon our national honor would be something of an understatement. Indeed, it is and should be a matter of profound national shame. Our leadership authorized and condoned, and American civilian and military personnel engaged in, interrogation techniques (torture) they knew to be illegal. That Bush Administration lawyers were willing to twist the law to their advantage hardly diminishes the fact that torture is a war crime. Like any crime committed, punishment should logically ensue once said criminal behavior has been discovered, documented, and proven.
And yet...President Obama seems more than willing to forgive and forget...and in so doing condoning the very behavior that has brought this nation into such well-deserved disrepute.
WE DESERVE BETTER.
Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.
- President Barack Obama
I have boundless respect for President Obama. If he's done nothing else in his first 100 days in office, he's given this nation a glimpse of real, competent, principled leadership looks like. Nonetheless, on this point I'm going to have to respectfully and profoundly disagree with him. Indeed, by ignoring the culpability of those who authorized, condoned, and engaged in torture, we're selling our soul to the Devil. Obama's argument is one very short step from positing that the end justifies the means, and that protecting America from terrorism warrants any behavior that might elicit information that might accomplish that. Never mind the fact that torture has been shown time and again to be both unreliable and ineffective as an intelligence-gathering tool.
At the most basic level, the one thing that separates the United States of America from places like Liberia, Russia, Sierra Leone, Albania and so many other developing nations (no disrespect intended) is the rule of law. Not to make too fine a point of it, but without the rule of law, the very fabric of our society would have a much different feel. The rule of law draws a line in the sand between the acceptable and the unacceptable, and those who cross the line do so at their own peril and risk. The rule of law holds those who behave in contravention of the public interest accountable for their misdeeds. The one constant here is that the rule of law is blind. The people who administer the law may be prone to their own corruption and prejudice, but the rule of law itself recognizes no race, creed, color, or any other social division.
When we decide that certain crimes need not be punished, particularly out of political expediency, we diminish the rule of law. Ignoring what we know to be criminal behavior means that we consciously blur that line in the sand, and our moral compass begins to stray ever so slightly off true north. In so doing, we implicitly argue that the ends justify the means, and that denying human beings of their human rights in violation of international law and our treaty obligations is OK- because we're fighting the war on terror. Before you even know it, we begin to sink to the level of those who would destroy us...because we are in fact beginning the process of destroying ourselves from within.
Granted, this argument may seem overly dramatic and impassioned to some, but think about what it is that has gotten this country to where it is today. Without the rule of law, would America have been able to achieve what it has? Would we be the goal and the destination that so many millions from around the world aspire to and dream of? I would submit to you that we would not.
Law is not subjective. It does not sanction only those for whom doing so is politically expedient and convenient. It holds ALL of us to a higher standard, one that, 233 years later, still holds this country together and keeps it moving forward. We should not, indeed MUST not, condone those who sanctioned and engaged in torture- a war crime- for in so doing we would also be guilty of condoning war crimes. We're America. We should be better than that. WE DESERVE BETTER. And so do those who have been the victims of war crimes committed in our name.
Mr. President: Do the right thing. Prosecute those who sanctioned, condoned, and engaged in torture. Decency, justice, and the rule of law demand it. Show the world that America can admit it's mistakes, and that we do not allow the commission of war crimes to go unpunished. About this there should be no debate or equivocation.