Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Unhappy Birthday

An article about July 4th that is resonating with me at the moment:

The key part?
We have failed to pay attention. We've settled for lame excuses. We've spit on the memory of those who did that brave, brave thing in Philadelphia 232 years ago.

The America those men founded should never torture a prisoner.

The America they founded should never imprison people for years without charge or hearing.

The America they founded should never ship prisoners to foreign lands, knowing their new jailers might torture them.

Such abuses once were committed by the arrogant crowns of Europe, spawning rebellion.

Today, our nation does such things in the name of our safety. Petrified, unwilling to take the risks that love of liberty demands, we close our eyes.

I think this article spoke to me because I have just read, a well-documented report by Physicians for Human Rights which investigated and detailed the human rights abuses at Guantanamo. It is stomach-turning and deeply shaming. Or at least it should be to any decent American. Don't read it at lunch, is all I'm saying. And know that these terrible, terrible acts were committed by AMERICANS. And made all the more monstrous by the fact that many of those tortured were not in any way connected to any terrorist activity but rather were the subjects of arrest round-ups.

The preface, written by Major General Antonio Taguba, USA (Ret.), the principal investigator into the Abu Ghraib situation, states:
The profiles of these eleven former detainees, none of whom were ever charged with a crime or told why they were detained, are tragic and brutal rebuttals to those who claim that torture is ever justified. Through the experiences of these men in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, we can see the full scope of the damage this illegal and unsound policy has inflicted—both on America’s institutions and our nation’s founding values, which the military, intelligence services, and our justice system are duty-bound to defend.

In order for these individuals to suffer the wanton cruelty to which they were subjected, a government policy was promulgated to the field whereby the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice were disregarded. The UN Convention Against Torture was indiscriminately ignored. And the healing professions, including physicians and psychologists, became complicit in the willful infliction of harm against those the Hippocratic Oath demands they protect.

It's deeply depressing to read. Which may be why no one really wants to talk about it or acknowledge it. But we'll have to someday. We'll have to account for why we allowed this great nation to become the symbol for prisoner abuse and torture. Why we assume that if someone is in Gitmo they must deserve to be there. Why anyone, no matter who they are or what they've done, should be anally-raped by a stick while US personnel laugh. And why such rape--and threat of it--appears to be a standard form of "questioning" our country now employs. This is who we are?

Say it ain't so.

1 comment:

Utah Savage said...

This who we have become and it is sickening. And McCain's flip on this is sickening, since he was tortured and spilled his guts, signed anything they put in front of him and made propaganda tapes for the North Vietnamese. I't's a tad scary to think we might continue to follow this path, which can only end in the end of us as a "democracy."