Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Wise Words on Gitmo and Other Prisoner Abuse

"We can’t let the abuses, however rare, just pass into history. I don’t care if they were perpetrated by so-called “bad seeds.” I don’t care if all the problems have been 100% corrected. What I care about is that it happened. And letting it slide without debate, without seriously looking into it means we are willing to tolerate it. And we simply can’t be America and tolerate abuse. That’s just not who we are. Period."

-from Alan at theYellow Line.

The whole subject of prisioner abuse, be at Guantanamo, Iraq or Afghanistan has been an issue that has bothered me. It has bothered me to hear, and in some cases see, evidence of US personnel abusing prisioners. But what has set me off even more is the response of some Americans to the abuse. Every so often you will hear something like, "Well they behead Americans. Why are you complaining about what we do?"

This bothers me because we are starting to base our treatement of prisioners based on how the enemy treats us. It's lowest common denominator policy. That's wrong.

I am not some wimpy left-wing peacenik who rants about the United States as an evil nation. I take the war on terror seriously. And because I do take it seriously, I take how we treat our enemies seriously. America is a nation of laws and not of men, as President Ford once famously said. President Bush has said that the enemy hates us because of our freedoms. Well, our freedoms are not some airy thing, they are enshirned in our Constitution. A part of our constitution called the Bill of Rights guards against "cruel and unusual punishment." In short, we don't torture. Now, I know some will say that this only applies to Americans, but if we can't apply it to how we treat our enemies then what real meaning does it have?

America is a place where we believe torture and abuse is wrong. Heaven knows we are not perfect on this issue, but we try. The people we are holding in various places around the world very well might be criminals with intent to harm us. If so, we must punish them. But punishment doesn't mean abusing them. Their treatment of Americans is not an excuse. Septemeber 11th can't be an excuse either. We have to do this within the rule of law or else they will win. The goal of terrorism is to instill fear and weaken democracy from within. If we accept abuse, then we are bascially giving al Queda and the insurgents a wonderful recruiting tool.

Let's fight this war on terror, but let's to do it by the rules.


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