by Eric Martin
What, with all the recent brow furrowing, chin scratching and contrarian preening set in motion by the suddenly controversial topic of whether or not torture works and, if so, whether we should consider adopting it as our official policy, I thought it would be a good time to revisit some of the words of some of the nation's leading moral/ethical voices.
Below are a series of excerpts concerning the use of torture. See if you can guess the speaker of each. Answers below the fold:
1. "The United States is a country that takes human rights seriously. We do not torture. It’s against our laws and against our values. And we expect all those who serve America to conduct themselves accordingly, and we enforce those rules...America is a fair and a decent country. President Bush has made it clear, both publicly and privately, that our duty to uphold the laws and standards of this nation make no exceptions for wartime. As he put it, we are in a fight for our principles and our first responsibility is to live by them. The war on terror, after all, is more than a contest of arms and more than a test of will. It’s also a war of ideas."
2. "The awfulness is twofold. First, there's the illegal, morally corrupt -- and corrupting -- evil of torturing people...Second, there's the counter-productive stupidity of it. Even if these guys were the worst [of the worst], the damage this does to the image of America is huge...How many more American soldiers will be shot because of the ill will and outrage this generates? How do we claim to be champions of the rule of law? Well, there is one way. This needs to be investigated and prosecuted. If there's more to the story -- whatever that could conceivably be -- let's find out. But if the story is as it appears, there has to be accountability, punishment and disclosure."
3. "The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention [Against Torture]. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today. The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called "universal jurisdiction." Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution."
4. "...[T]here is no place for abuse in what must be considered the family of man. There is no place for torture and arbitrary detention. There is no place for forced confessions. There is no place for intolerance of dissent...the roots of American rule of law go back more than 700 years, to the signing of the Magna Carta. The foundation of American values, therefore, is not a passing priority or a temporary trend."
5."Obviously, it was a shameful moment when we saw on our TV screens that soldiers took it upon themselves to humiliate Iraqi prisoners -- because it doesn't reflect the nature of the American people, or the nature of the men and women in our uniform. And what the world will see is that we will handle this matter in a very transparent way, that there will be rule of law -- which is an important part of any democracy. And there will be transparency, which is a second important part of a democracy. And people who have done wrong will be held to account for the world to see. That will stand -- this process will stand in stark contrast to what would happen under a tyrant. You would never know about the abuses in the first place. And if you did know about the abuses, you certainly wouldn't see any process to correct them."
6. "[The perpetrators of torture] deserve jail or execution, and will probably get one or both...[Torture] should be dealt with very, very harshly. But those who would...make such behavior emblematic of our effort, instead of recognizing it as an abandonment of our principles -- are mere opportunists."
7. "I don’t agree with the belief that we should use any means necessary to extract information. I believe there are absolutes. There are things we must never do under any circumstances. For me the ultimate test is: Could I, in good conscience, do whatever I am authorizing or condoning others to do? If not, then I must oppose the action. If I could not waterboard someone—and I couldn’t—then I must oppose its practice. There are some things you should never do to another human being, no matter how horrific the things they have done. If you do so, you demean yourself to their level. Civilized countries should err on the side of caution. It does cost us something to play by different rules than our enemies, but it would cost us far more if we played by their rules."
8. "...[T]here is a good debate going on about the importance of values in all that we do. We think for the military, in particular that camp, that’s a line [torture] that can’t be crossed...It is hugely significant to us to live the values that we hold so dear and that we have fought so hard to protect over the years."
Last and certainly least:
9. "[T]he whole point of my piece is that I AM complaining that we do NOT waterboard enough. Yes, we need to waterboard more. At the moment, waterbaording appears to have been banned by both the CIA and the Pentagon. As I say pretty directly in my piece, Bush should reinstate waterboarding publicly and proudly...I hope this clears up any confusion you might have had. "