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Bordering on American disgrace

Debating the use of torture offers a chilling glimpse at America’s psyche

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The war in Afghanistan is disgusting.

However, it is not only the bombs, the refugees or the dead soldiers and civilians. What has become of America at home is just as gruesome.

There is an ongoing debate in the American media about the use of torture to extract information about possible future acts of terrorism. Torture has also been brought up as a means to search out the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. The land of the free, the home of the brave--these are the people debating whether to torture suspected terrorists.

This is a giant step back for America. The U.S. prides itself as the defender of personal freedoms and their heavy-handed righteousness is oftentimes justified by their track record. While the U.S. is not a selfless nation of charity, its record with human rights is far better than most. But the fact that torture came up as a possible means of fighting terrorism shows just how much damage the attacks of September 11 did to the American psyche. The defenders of freedom, the liberators of the oppressed--these are the people talking about torture.

American foreign policy is oftentimes ruthless, but there is always at least a facade of doing bad things for the right reasons. The Gulf War was a war of liberation, not a war of oil. Trading with China will help free the Chinese people, not strengthen an oppressive regime. This time the facade was dropped.

The argument for using torture is that harming a few individuals will prevent mass atrocities. This is sacrificing the rights of the few for the good of the many. Such justification has been used before. Remember Stalin's purges? Remember Hitler? The Gestapo used torture too. They "protected" the German people from dissident groups in the 1930s and 1940s.

Freedom of the press is also falling under attack. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld chastised the media for reporting that ground troops were moving into Afghanistan. Rumsfeld was upset that vague reports in various U.S. publications may have put soldiers at risk. Obviously the Taliban gets their news from the Washington Post.

America has tread dangerous waters since September 11. Personal freedoms are under attack. While the need for increased security is undoubtedly on the minds of the American people, the means being discussed are as disgusting as the terrorist attacks themselves.

America is discussing torture. This is not tickling people's feet, slapping them around or yelling at them for an hour. Torture is burnt flesh, broken bones and rape. Torture is the Spanish Inquisition, apartheid and concentration camps. There is no such thing as justifiable rape. There is no such thing as justifiable torture. Let's hope the Americans retain their senses and see it that way.

Kris Kotarski can be reached at kotarski@home.com.

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