Muftic: History condemns acts of torture |

Muftic: History condemns acts of torture

Felicia Muftic
My View
Felicia Muftic
Courtesy Photo |

If the Senate report on CIA torture practices in the early post-Sept. 11 days revealed anything, it was when fear for national security prevails, the U.S. behaves like most other countries. We become unexceptional.

We trample human rights and engage in practices for which we would be ashamed under normal circumstances. Those who boast of American exceptionalism need to temper their flag waiving.

That we are willing to admit that violating our own values is wrong decades later may set us apart and is indeed exceptional behavior. Most nations do not do this. Without condemning such actions, we become the pot calling the kettle black in calling out others for brutal treatment of POWs or violation of human rights. At least the report clarifies our standards for others to follow.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former tortured POW himself, attested on the Senate floor torture does not work, but (that)…”isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. … It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world.”

The GOP shouted the report was a partisan move and it was full of (unspecified) untruths, that circumstances justified it: It worked, our brutal treatment is less brutal than others, and it will stoke our enemies’ fire.

The report presents truths no one has yet refuted. Even current CIA Director John Brennan could not deny the “techniques” called enhanced interrogation (EIT) did take place and detainees died or were subjected to “harsh, abhorrent” and unauthorized practices.

Left to debate was whether it worked. Brennan said the “program” did provide “useful” intelligence, saying it was “unknowable” if saying EITs were responsible for extracting that information. Firing back, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Diane Feinstein (D-CA) said the report clearly documented the intelligence extracted took place before the water boarding or other EITs occurred.

Consider the times, respond the report’s critics, as if to say we can excuse our behavior in the fog of fear of future attacks post-Sept. 11. Our country has been there before: in 1798 the Federalist controlled Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts claiming a fear of a French war on our shores. The acts allowed us to deport and imprison those we thought might subvert us and allowed us to confiscate their property during wartimes. The Sedition Acts muzzled those criticizing the U.S. government. All were contrary to the Bill of Rights.

These acts, too, were entangled in politics. The Federalists were proponents of the Alien and Sedition Acts; the Democratic-Republican Jeffersonians opposed. The descendants of the Federalists, the GOP (McCain excepted), are now trying to justify EITs use. They are being true to their earliest roots of throwing under the bus our First Amendment protections whenever national security is threatened.

The sedition acts later expired. The alien laws survived and were used to detain, imprison, and confiscate property of American-Japanese in World War II. Those acts, too, were condemned by history, just as the EIT program is being condemned a decade later.

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