Thursday, February 07, 2008

My Government Tortures People

I'm not proud of this fact. And for those of us who've been paying attention, it's not news, either. Anyone who saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib and read some of the other accounts of people who have been detained over the last six or seven years knew, even if they didn't want to admit it, that the United States government has been torturing people.

The news this week is that now they've basically admitted it, though they still try to couch it in terms that suggest they aren't doing it anymore (unless they feel like they need to). And I should point out that the discussion/admission pertains almost exclusively to a particular technique known as waterboarding. There are plenty of things, short of waterboarding, that constitute torture, and it's pretty clear that many are in current use.

So, this week both the U.S. Attorney General and the Director of the C.I.A. have acknowledged past uses of waterboarding by the C.I.A. We tortured three people. The excuse given is basically that they thought it was a good idea.

Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post writes in his excellent column today:

Putting aside for a moment the question of whether the ends did in fact justify the means -- and there is considerable evidence that the waterboarding of those three men miserably failed that test as well -- the White House argument is deeply perverse and goes against core American values.

Waterboarding is undeniably cruel. It is undeniably an assault on human dignity. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution -- the one banning cruel and unusual punishment -- doesn't come with an asterisk indicating: Except when you think it's really, really important.

I guess it's been a while since I wrote on this topic (for a while, it felt like all torture, all the time), but this is undeniably awful. Whatever moral standing the U.S. still had left is quickly evaporating.

No wonder all the presidential candidates keep running around saying they are in favor of change (even the ones who support the current policies). There's not much in this current stand to like.

Torture is wrong. It's always wrong. And any government official who condones it belongs in prison, not in office. As a friend e-mailed me tonight: "Impeachment: It's not just for sex anymore!"

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