FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Torture and Cowardice

by RAY McGOVERN

Former CIA analyst

Where do American religious leaders stand on torture? Their deafening silence evokes memories of the unconscionable behavior of German church leaders in the 1930s and early 1940s. Despite the hate whipped up by administration propagandists against those it brands “terrorists,” most Americans agree that torture should not be permitted. Few seem aware, though, that although President George W. Bush says he is against torture, he has openly declared that our military and other interrogators may engage in torture “consistent with military necessity.” For far too long, we have been acting like “obedient Germans.” Shall we continue to avert our eyes–even as our mainstream media begin to expose the “routine” torture conducted by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo? Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman John Warner took a strong rhetorical stand against torture early last year after seeing the photos from Abu Ghraib. Then he succumbed to strong political pressure to postpone Senate hearings on the subject until after the November 2004 election. Those of us who live in Virginia might probe our consciences on this. Shall we citizens of the once-proud Old Dominion simply acquiesce while Sen. Warner shirks his constitutional duty? We have come a long way since Virginia patriot Patrick Henry loudly insisted that the rack and the screw were barbaric practices that must be left behind in the Old World, or we are “lost and undone.” Can Americans from other states consult their own consciences with respect to what justice may require of them in denouncing torture as passionately as the patriots who founded our nation? On Sept. 24, The New York Times ran a detailed report regarding the kinds of “routine” torture that U.S. servicemen and women have been ordered to carry out. This week’s Time also has an article on the use of torture by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. Those two articles are based on a new report from Human Rights Watch, a report that relies heavily on the testimony of a West Point graduate, an Army captain who has had the courage to speak out. A Pentagon spokesman has dismissed the report as “another predictable report by an organization trying to advance an agenda through the use of distortion and errors of fact.” Judge for yourselves; the report can be found here. Grim but required reading. Inhuman History, even recent history, demonstrates once again that absolute power corrupts absolutely. See if you can guess the author of the following:

“In this land that has inherited through our forebears the noblest understandings of the rule of law, our government has deliberately chosen the way of barbarism… “There is a price to be paid for the right to be called a civilized nation. That price can be paid in only one currency–the currency of human rights. … When this currency is devalued, a nation chooses the company of the world’s dictatorships and banana republics. I indict this government for the crime of taking us into that shady fellowship. “The rule of law says that cruel and inhuman punishment is beneath the dignity of a civilized state. But to prisoners we say, ‘We will hold you where no one can hear your screams.’ When I used the word ‘barbarism,’ this is what I meant. The entire policy stands condemned by the methods used to pursue it. “We send a message to the jailers, interrogators, and those who make such practices possible and permissible: ‘Power is a fleeting thing. One day your souls will be required of you.'” – Bishop Peter Storey, Central Methodist Mission, Johannesburg, June 1981

I asked a Muslim friend recently what the Koran says about torture. After consulting an imam, she reported that the Koran does not address the subject because the Koran deals only “with human behavior.” Do not we of the Judeo-Christian tradition also reject torture as inhuman and never morally permissible? The various rationalizations for torture do not bear close scrutiny. Intelligence specialists concede that the information acquired by torture cannot be considered reliable. Our own troops are brutalized when they follow orders to brutalize. And they are exposed to much greater risk when captured. Our country becomes a pariah among nations. Above all, torture is simply wrong. It falls into the same category of evil as slavery and rape. Torture is inhuman and immoral, whether or not our bishops and rabbis can summon the courage to name it so. It Is Up to Us By keeping their tongue-tied heads way down, our religious leaders have forfeited the moral authority with which they otherwise could speak. They end up playing the role of Hitler’s Reichsbishops, who supported–or at least acquiesced in–the policies and methods of the Third Reich. Many American men and women–Jews, Christians, Muslims of the Abrahamic tradition–have learned not to depend on clergy leaders who bless the Empire. The inescapable conclusion is, as popular theologian Annie Dillard reminds us, “There is only us; there never has been any other.” The question is this: Are we are up to the challenge of confronting the evil of torture, or shall we prove Patrick Henry right? Is our country about to be “lost and undone?”

RAY McGOVERN works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC, and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. On Wednesday, he arrived home in Arlington, VA, after five days in Crawford, and shared these remarks with 300 neighbors at the close of a candlelight observance in honor of Cindy Sheehan. He can be reached at: RRMcGovern@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005

 

Ray McGovern was an Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 year. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). He can be reached at: rrmcgovern@gmail.com. A version of this article first appeared on Consortiumnews.com.  

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 28, 2017
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
A Paradigm Shift in the Middle East: Iran as the Solution, Not the Problem
Paul Street
Big Brother Capitalism Strikes Back
Stephen Cooper
Trump’s Pusillanimous Immigration Policy Imperils the Public and the Police
Vincent Emanuele
The Madness of U.S. Empire
Michael Sainato and Chelsea Skojec
We Need the Endangered Species Act Now More Than Ever
David Underhill
Oops, They Did It Again: Crowd Bowls Over Rep in Beery Alley
John Eskow
Jimmy Kimmel is a Total Dick and Other Reflections on the Oscars
Steve Horn
Trump’s Top Energy Aide, Mike Catanzaro Peddled Climate Change Denial
Jack Random
The Trump Diaries: Week Five
Robert Fisk
The Education of Marine Le Pen
Pauline Murphy
Felicia Browne’s Fight Against Fascism
Mary Lynn Cramer
Fearing the Trump Impeachment
Mel Gurtov
While Our Attention is Elsewhere, Climate Change Worsens
Dan Bacher
Extinction 2017: California Edition
Abel Cohen
The Trojan President: America Never Saw It Coming
February 27, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press
Dave Lindorff
Resume Inflation at the NSC: Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
Conn Hallinan
Is Trump Moderating US Foreign Policy? Hardly
Norman Pollack
Political Castration of State: Militarization of Government
Kenneth Surin
Inside Dharavi, a Mumbai Slum
Lawrence Davidson
Truth vs. Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Extradition Saga of Kim Dotcom
Robert Fisk
Why a Victory Over ISIS in Mosul Might Spell Defeat in Deir Ezzor
David Swanson
Open Guantanamo!
Ted Rall
The Republicans May Impeach Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Why Should Trump―or Anyone―Be Able to Launch a Nuclear War?
Andrew Stewart
Down with Obamacare, Up with Single Payer!
Colin Todhunter
Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission
David Macaray
UFOs: The Myth That Won’t Die?
Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail