Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Torture: Moving Forward and not backwards

Pandora’s Box has been opened and now the political fallout is to begin. The box in question is torture. Opponents and proponents alike have their definition of torture and how best to be applied. The CIA memo’s released by the Obama Administration set the stage for conversation on torture. Liberals on the far left are screaming for heads while stark conservatives are looking for full disclosure on the success of torture methods used.

Never before in our American history has the current administration gone after the previous administration. FDR put Japanese Americans in internment camps and Abraham Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus but neither administration following went back to persecute anyone. Why now? President Obama needs to put the topic back on point and follow Gerald Ford’s handling of President Nixon.

The topic of conversation is torture. There is no use arguing the facts as in some cases water boarding worked and other cases it did not. The question is when that fine line of harsh interrogation becomes torture. As the topic drags on, it will continue to weaken the United States and strengthen the resolve of those that wish us harm.

The CIA and other intelligence agencies is now gun shy when it comes to harsh tactics of getting the critical data needed to keep Americans safe. In his book, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, James Rachels ponders the question of Moral Theory. Although the conversation in James Rachels book does not touch on torture, much of what is discussed can be applied.

It is through justice and fairness that our society must step forward on the issue of torture. To accomplish a compromise on torture pro and con debate must take place without emotional ties and with rational thought. Using the post 9-11 rhetoric and policies as an example, emotional reaction to torture needs to be divorced from the conversation. I understand that it can be difficult to do but it needs to be done.

America cannot remain safe if a coherent and acceptable level of torture, in war and peace time, is not established. Now, I do not want to see the President or the Director of the CIA standing in front of the podium and lay out the torture levels. Americans need to have faith that methods going forward are “humane”.