Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Might as well start out with one of the toughest issues that challenges the belief we have had about who we in the United States are: Do we torture? Should we torture?

Oh I know the spiel from the right-- What would you do if your grandchild was held prisoner and you could torture someone to find out where? How do you know we do use torture? Has it really been any tougher than a fraternity initiation? Those hypothetical questions, the ones that avoid real issues and pop up so people don't have to face real questions.

Here's a real question: Is torture okay with you? Or maybe-- how many of those who were tortured were guilty of anything? Or does torturing matter as long as you are kept safe? Will it only matter if someday there is a knock is at your own door?

President Bush has evidently won the right to keep torturing whoever he chooses. So much for McCain making a big deal out of his limiting the president. Limited him how? They left it whatever Bush decided was okay was okay. How is that different than what was? Was their whole protestation a farce to get publicity before rolling over?

With the justification of protecting us, the Geneva Conventions have been turned into whatever this president decides is okay. We already know what he has thought was okay-- beatings, sexual humiliation, water-boarding, hypothermia, stretched positions (used to call that the rack), threatened rape if not actual rape. Some died under these tortures. Under that criteria, seems odd they would try Saddam Hussein.

Personally I suspect Bush needed something said that would condone what he has already done. Maybe his concern was avoiding future trials of his own people. I wonder how he would like having his men or perhaps himself put on trial but no evidence given because if you gave evidence, it might alert the enemy to your true plans.

How does someone like Bilal Hussein, a cameraman photographing the Iraq war, defend himself when he's arrested but with no list of charges, no names of accusers, but just thrown into prison, possibly tortured to get him to admit to something-- anything.

Whether we like thinking about any of this or not, we have personal responsibility for our own acquiescence in whatever they do. So was it okay with to torture men like Abdul Ameer Hussein or Maher Arar who later the government released and admitted were innocent? Oops. Accidents happen when you are trying to keep the American people safe.

What if such torture ends up saving nobody's life anywhere? Still okay? How do we find out if the torturing was useful? Are we content to take the word of the Bush administration because we think that absolves us of personal responsibility?

Ignorance is no excuse in the law, and I don't think it is in moral issues either-- not when it's purposeful ignorance.

I believe the Geneva Conventions were agreed upon in the same way many years before a convention of people got together to write down specifically what Jesus taught and who he was. Not new information but simply deciding it was time to write it down.

The people writing the Conventions weren't gathering new information either. They were consolidating human opinion on how to treat others in a war situation-- something this administration has declared us to be fighting. The idea was the so-called civilized world (not one man alone) would decide what was appropriate to do to prisoners.

After the horror of the Holocaust, I think the world wanted to never again let one nation ride roughshod over others without accountability from the whole community. What they wrote down then was an agreement on what was civilized.

Germans, as a people, had a stain on their reputation that lasted many years after what happened under the Nazi party. Was it enough that they as individuals didn't know, or were they guilty of looking the other way and not wanting to see?

Some people in my country don't seem to care what someone else does if they are told it will keep their families safe. Others disagree with torture, but will they see that disagreeing means they have to vote out their own congressmen who voted to allow torture-- whatever party he was in.

And about torture itself, it's not just that it doesn't work. It's not just that people who are tortured will confess to anything. It's not just that it's inhumane to sexually and physically abuse another person for your own ends-- whatever they are. It's about who we are, not just who they are.

"This is a spooky time in history. It’s one thing for tyrannical regimes like the old Soviet Union and Communist China to bulldoze the very idea of human rights and human decency by engaging in such atrocities as detention without trial, torture and other forms of state terror. It’s something else completely when the United States, the greatest symbol of liberty that the world has ever known, begins to head down that hellish road. " by Bob Herbert-- September 25, 2006 New York Times

So just exactly who are we? Do we torture or do we say no to it at the polls in November?

The people who have been tortured all around the world by many nations are generally anonymous-- some guilty of something, some innocent. To reflect their faceless fate, there could be no photograph for this topic.


Winston said...

Under Bush, we have become a barbarous people in the eyes of the world and in the hearts and minds of those Americans who still cherish what we were. We have quickly become the type of facist regime that we have sought to overthrow, like Saddam Hussein's Iraq. I vote NO to torture!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

NO. NO. NO. No torture...!!!
How did we become the so called enemies we have fought and died and been maimed for???
It's unthinkable that this congress passed a law that oretty much says The Geneva Convention is no longer a viable document. And as you said, What the hell does that say about us morally???

Ingineer66 said...

I dont like the idea of torture any more than the next guy. But it seems it has become a political issue like the terrorist wiretapping. The Dems made a huge deal about it and then when you come down to a vote they vote for it because they dont want to be the one who let the next attack happen.
Oh and forced to make a naked pyramid is not torture, the stuff done to John McCain and other Vietnam prisoners was torture.
And comparing Sadam to CIA interrogations is a bit of a stretch. I am sure that if we were rounding up villages of women and children and bulldozing them into holes in the ground someone would be reporting it.

Rain said...

there have been some accusations against our troops regarding going way beyond what is okay, but i'd rather not get into that as it's not the issue here. The issue here was not whether democrats or republicans think it's okay. Do you think it is? Does this country condone it? I don't think either party has made it an issue but I did for this blog. I wanted people to think about how they personally felt and whether to them it was okay as Bush believes. We don't know how bad it got btw. That is hard to prove. Sexual abuse though would cause someone to go to jail in this country, not sure how you think it's okay over there. Especially not since most of those Iraqi prisoners probably hadn't done anything from the sounds of it. Just got rounded up or accused with no way to prove what was going on. They were fighting like our troops and I bet if we saw photos of our troops being treated that way after being captured, we'd consider it torture.

Ingineer66 said...

OK I think I was in a bad mood earlier because I was on a rant. You are correct that sexual abuse is torture in my mind and it is wrong no matter what the circumstances. And if captured US troops were subjected to posing naked for pictures I would be pissed about it and want to kick ass, but I would not call it torture. On the other hand most of the people being questioned by the CIA are not regular soldiers. They are terrorists who are intending to target US and British civilians. I believe we should allow any proven interogation techniques that may exist in the questioning of terrorists.
In my mind it is kind of like what happens at the slaughterhouse. I dont want to hear or see a vivid description of what happens there, but I sure do enjoy a good steak.
Personally I don't need or want to know everything that the CIA is doing, but I do want Senate review of what they are doing.

Ingineer66 said...

Oh one more thing. I dont think we suddenly became a barbarous people under Bush. I am pretty sure there are some people in the CIA and Military there were there before 2000. We just didnt hear so much about it. How do think Bill Clinton got the intel to bomb that aspirin factory in Sudan.

Rain said...

We disagree on it and Bush doesn't want anybody to decide what is torture and who gets tortured except him. The ones who have been held have been often released later because they were not guilty of anything. You are assuming that only bad guys get tortured and that's been proven false already. The issue is that this country is acting like a renegade to the rest of the world. As that quote said in what I posted, we have held to a higher road but under bush, we are on the low road. and all so you can think you are safery. That sexual abuse, which I would call torture, is worse to some religions than others, but since it's illegal, it's not okay in my mind.

As for what goes on in slaughterhouses, it's because I do know that I want to sell my beef direct to the buyer with the animals slaughtered mercifully on my own place. You have no responsibility to know because you don't have animals. I do.

It's that same priinciple that says we have an obligation to know as a nation about what our country does in our name. Germans did too when the Holocaust was going on...

er did you read what I wrote here before you began disagreeing? *s*

Rain said...

I don't know btw what was done before Bush legally by our secret groups but there is a huge difference when the president of your country is out there saying I want a right to torture and I'll decide what is torture and don't care what anybody else thinks about it. It puts us out there like a rogue nation. If things were done before, they were done illegally.

Ingineer66 said...

OK I did read your original post, you know that we disagree on Bush but I think we pretty much agree on our objection to a tyranical government. Like I said I want Congressional oversight and legal actions by government agents and I believe that is what GW wants also. I listened to his speech the other day about the program. This has become such a political football when it would be good if logic and integrity governed the decisions that are made.

Rain said...

It became an issue because Bush was secretly torturing and holding prisoners without trials. Some of whom later were released and told what happened. It became one because some think it's evil to torture as was done in those photos that were leaked out by someone who didn't like what they saw. You call it a political football because you think it's okay. It's actual an issue of what is right to do morally. Bush wants and wanted no oversight at all.

And you should believe absolutely nothing of what the man says in speeches. Wait and look for what actually happens.

Ingineer66 said...

Some of those that have been released in from Gitmo and Afghanistan and Iraq have gone on to attack US soldiers again so it is a tight rope that we are walking. I say error on the side of caution.