The Senate panel who stole Christmas

We are in the season of sleigh bells, Christmas cookies, holly, the smell of evergreens, and songs of peace on earth and good will toward men. In the midst of our merrymaking, a panel of the United States Senate released a report which makes the Grinch look jolly. The 500 page executive summary that report details how agencies of this country used torture in efforts to obtain information from suspected terrorists following the attacks on September 11, 2001. The evidence cited in the report indicates that for years the CIA misrepresented the interrogation techniques used and overstated their effectiveness.

The “enhanced interrogation techniques” described in the report are gruesome, inhumane and disturbingly cruel. There are differing versions of who authorized the torture and who knew about it. Many experts question the effectiveness of the water boarding, sleep deprivation and rectal hydration in eliciting useful intelligence.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 caught us by surprise and left us feeling frightened and vulnerable. The horrific images of that awful day are burned into our memory. Because of our fear we willingly tolerated new invasions of our own privacy and increased surveillance in the name of national security. Torture of these prisoners has been justified by reason of additional attacks that may have been thwarted by the information obtained. We looked away when information about secret prisons and torture leaked into the news. We justified it because others did bad things to us and because we were under attack.

We think of our country as being founded on ethical and morally sound principles. We believe this is the greatest country on earth and we stand on moral high ground as an exceptional nation. Our Pledge of Allegiance cites our being “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

While some maintain this report is politically motivated, Republican Senator John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war, has been quoted as supporting the Senate report. Senator McCain questions the effectiveness of torture. He knows what he’s talking about from his own experiences. He said, “I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world…When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea…that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights.”

Do we claim justice for all except for those we suspect of plotting evil against us? Do we claim our country is founded on Christian principles, except for Christ’s teachings about turning the other cheek and loving our enemies? Do we believe that the end–thwarting further attacks against us–justifies whatever means the CIA chooses to employ? How is that different from those who looked the other way as smoke from Nazi concentration camp crematoria filled the German countryside? Our belief that human life is sacred must also apply to those who would do us harm. We cannot respond to the use of cruel and gruesome acts with equal cruelty.

Whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” are effective and if we gain by using them should not be the questions we are asking. We must demand that those who act in our name stop the use of torture because it is immoral and unethical. Ask our current Senators and Representative where they stand on this issue. Ask candidates in the next election. Vote for those who stand for the just and humane treatment of even our enemies.

Copyright © 2014 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains