Commentary by James Turnage
I placed this in an area designed for discussion because of the results of the poll. For me there is no discussion. Those who don’t know anything about the failed results of torture, and the effects on the victims, may think it is acceptable for the safety of others; they would be incorrect. This poll is definitive of what I have suspected for some time; American morality is on the decline. For far too many of our country’s men and women, our nation is the only one that matters; the remainder of the world exists for us to use.
49 percent of Americans believe that torture is justifiable under certain circumstances; 57 percent believe torture results in useful information.
I have made the claim many times that the terrorists who attacked the United States on 9/11 succeeded beyond their wildest fantasies. The cowardly murders of nearly 3,000 innocent men and women was the obvious result, but the unseen was much more destructive. The very core of American principle; the courage, faith and hope of the American people; and the destruction of respect and understanding, replacing them with fear and distrust were the long-term results.
In other words, they destroyed the America in which I grew up.
Those who justify torture are as evil as those who perform domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual abuse. When humans perform inhuman acts, they have no place in our society.
The purpose of torture is to obtain information. Throughout history men have enjoyed actions resulting in physical harm to those who are unable to defend themselves, justifying it with claims of arriving at the truth. The assumption is that enough pain, sleep deprivation, or mental distress will reach a level of intolerance that the victim will release all the information they possess. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Arizona Senator John McCain was a POW during the Vietnam War. He has often spoken about the evils of torture he experienced, and its failure to accomplish its purpose. When the pain becomes intolerable, the victim will say anything to make it stop; whether it is the truth or not.
CIA Director John Brennan denounced much of the Senate report on torture. The agency prefers to call it ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.’ It doesn’t sound quite as bad when torture is politicized and given a grand name. Brennan admitted that mistakes were made, but denied that useful information was not obtained. But when he was cornered with the ultimate question, if any substantial information was obtained by using EIT, he admitted that it was ‘unknowable.’
During my 68 years in America, I learned to have pride in my country; patriotism because of what it stood for. I believed that being an American meant giving value to all human life; doing what was right vs. what was expedient. I was taught to respect all living things, including plants, animals, and other human beings.
We had history classes in school, and the good and bad events, the actions of men and women, and how they effected the world leading to where we were then, shaped our character, and gave us pride in the American way of life. We learned of the atrocities committed by the Nazis and Japanese in WWII. We saw the pictures of emaciated men who had been imprisoned and tortured. We read about the Holocaust, and the attempted extermination of all European Jews.
Books and movies depicted the horrible torture practices performed on our American soldiers. We knew that torture was a form of evil, frequently resulting in death, and always the cause of permanent physical and mental damage.
Anyone who justifies torture is approving inhumane action, and falsely believes that it is an effective way to obtain information.
The Bush/Cheney Administration initiated and approved the torture of detainees they assumed were Al Qaeda leaders and could have knowledge of information which could aid our country in the ‘war on terror.’ They will never be tried for their war crimes; but that does not make them any less than criminals walking among us.
Op-Ed By James Turnage