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Political Talk Show Host and Internet Radio Personality. My show, In My Humble Opinion, aired on RainbowRadio from 2015-2017.
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Monday, September 21, 2009
My Position on Torture
There is a lot of controversy over whether or not to prosecute those responsible for torturing terror suspects as part of the on-going wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, rest assured, that, for me, it would be unthinkable to prosecute the low-ranking grunts that actually carried out the 'enhanced interrogations.' Liberal though I may be, I firmly believe that soldiers in the battlefield must follow the orders given by their superiors, and that it should not be up to the soldier to figure out whether a given order is legal or not. If you tolerate that, you will have chaos in the battlefield, people will die, and ANY war effort will crumble. No, soldiers and low ranking intelligence agents MUST carry out their orders, as given. It therefore falls onto the officers and the executive branch of our civilian government to GIVE THEM LEGAL ORDERS, and to be held accountable when they do not. It is therefore the limit of the scope of this discussion as to whether on not to prosecute the high ranking officers, CIA directer George Tenet (and any high ranking subordinates who were the architects of this policy), Attourney General Alberto Gonzalez for crafting the Administration's pseudo-legal reasoning on torture and both former President George W. Bush and former Vice-President Dick Cheney.
And (surprise, surprise) to me there is no question. These men MUST stand trial. The use of torture is both illegal and immoral and profoundly un-American. Is this just my own personal opinion? Hardly. This position is informed by two clear statements in our founding documents:
The Sixth ammendment to our Constitution guarantees a speedy public trial for criminal offenses. It requires trial by a jury, guarantees the right to legal counsel for the accused, and guarantees that the accused may require witnesses to attend the trial and testify in the presence of the accused. It also guarantees the accused a right to know the charges against him. It is clear that the terror suspects have had these rights denied them.
The Eighth Amendment to our Constitution forbids excessive bail or fines, and cruel and unusual punishment. If TORTURE is not "cruel and unusual" then the words have no meaning.
It is therefore pretty hard for anyone to argue that picking someone up, imprisoning them indefinitely without trial or due process and torturing them, is somehow "Pro-American" when these acts are expressively forbidden by our founding document.
"But Eddie," says the bed-wetting Right-Winger, "These rights only apply to Americans! The terrorists aren't Americans!"
You're WRONG, but nice try. First off, there HAVE been American Citizens who have become victims of these circumstances. Second, how, pray tell, DOES the Constitution protect OUR rights? It does this by limiting the actions that our Government may take; by limiting its authority. Its authority is further limited in these matters by the Geneva Convention. And neither that treaty nor the Constitution of the United States gives any exceptions to the limits placed on our government that they should not apply to non-U.S. citizens. And if any court should say they do, I will find this a profoundly un-American interpretation. Only by PROHIBITING these practices are our rights defended. For, once you allow loopholes, those in power need only find a way to apply the loop hole to anyone they deem inconvenient and YOUR rights are GONE. We mustn't allow this. We mustn't tolerate this at all! (Come on Conservatives! Why do you try actually sticking to your principle of 'limiting' the 'power' of government for a change?!)
"But Eddie," continues the cowardly right-winger, "The enemy is so savage! They BEHEAD people! Without trial! They give no quarter! They offer no rights! They're BRUTAL!"
To which I ask, "If they're so horrible, why on earth should we aspire to become MORE like them?"
"But, but, but Eddie," continues the now trembling Conservative, "Those people (Bush/Cheney & co.) Were trying to save America! They were trying to save YOU!"
OK. First things last. This argument is utter bullshit, and I'll explain why. There is simply no way that Al-Quaeda can destroy AMERICA. In their single biggest battlefield victory, the killed 3000 civilians, and knocked down a few buildings. Not bad, but it cost them their entire air capability a the time do it, and in return we overthrew two sovereign governments within 18 months of the attack. Bottom line? Al-Quaeda poses no threat to my COUNTRY.
You want to know who poses a threat to America? To the American way of life? To American values? Cowardly conservative who, out of either fear or a lust for power or vengeance, will destroy the Constitution, and destroy the very values that made America worth defending in the first place. They're not saving the COUNTRY! OUR GOVERNMENT is the only real threat to this COUNTRY! And only by letting them set aside those values that make US the GOOD GUYS. By setting aside those quintessential American values in order to... what? Save some buildings and save a few lives.
Now... I don't want to seem callous about the loss of life. It's tragic, and I truly mourn every American civilian and every American soldier lost to this enemy. But the bitter fact remains that we will all eventually die. And nothing can stop this. You will die. I will die. (Hopefully later, rather than sooner!) But we WILL all DIE. Period. What must LIVE ON... What must outlive us and our great-grandchildren by centuries and more are the freedoms and liberties that made American the greatest country in the history of the world. It is our FREEDOM that makes us great. And Al-Quaeda can simply NOT take that away. Only OUR GOVERNMENT can. And only if we, in our fear, let them. And this is the ONLY thing worth defending, the only thing worth fighting for in the first place.
And should I die because our government refuse to torture, will my death be taken bitterly? Not at all. In the extremely unlikely event, the utterly minuscule chance that I should be killed in a terrorist plot that could have been prevented if only were we willing to trash our values, then I will have dies in defense of those values, in defense of FREEDOM, every bit as much as those Soldiers dying in the fields of Afghanistan, and arguably MORE so than the Soldiers dying in Iraq.
We must not let our FEAR allow us to permit our government to do the unconscionable. We must not betray our values, or sacrifice our freedoms, just to save our skin. To do so is both cowardly and traitorous. To do so is to give in to fear and hate and to lose sight of what it is we are actually fighting for.
America stands for human rights, the due process of law and, above, all for the freedoms laid out in our Constitution. These are what make us the 'good guys' in this fight. These are what make this land and our way of life worth defending. If we, in our fear and in expediency, allow those things which make this country great to die, then we are no better than our enemy. And THIS liberal will not sit idly and watch his country brought so low. No one who would can do so and still call themselves PATRIOT.
You may notice that my argument focuses entirely on the MORAL and PATRIOTIC implications of allowing torture. The opposing arguments might carry some weight IF torture was ever shown to be effective, but it hasn't. It fails every common sense test under every scenario. I may take up the more PRACTICAL arguments against torture at a later date, though I personally find them to be moot. Regardless of the [largely imagined] results, torture remains illegal, immoral and Un-American.