Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No Water for Info

There are some American principles so important that the welfare of no citizen, or even a large group of citizens, is more important than adherence to them. Our treatment of prisoners is one of them. Our nation was born and grown to maturity under the over-arching principle that our light was different--exceptional--in the pantheon of national lamps around the globe. We were the light that outshone all others, and set the standard for others to emulate.

When a government incarcerates a citizen or an enemy, that government takes complete responsibility for the welfare of that prisoner. This is not to say that prisoners incarcerated as punishment for crimes against our society should be mollycoddled. But prisoners are, by definition, as helpless and dependent on the grace of the state as any, and their punishment should be no more, nor less, than the loss of personal freedom intended by the imprisonment.

When our government detains an enemy combatant, regardless whether that combatant's sanctioning nation or organization is a signatory to any treaties or conventions governing the treatment of prisoners of war, our government has a higher standard, by the very nature of our American Exceptionalism, by which to measure our treatment of that captive, regardless the atrocious nature of that captive's former activities against us or our allies. Further, and this is the meat of the matter, the safety of no American or American city, is more important than maintenance of our principles and the exceptional brightness of our light to the rest of the world.

When we, as a nation, begin to believe that our safety and comfort is so important that the torture of helpless prisoners to gain important information with which to disrupt and prevent future attacks against us is justified, then we relinquish our standing as the exceptional lamp to the world. To put this in perspective, when a US military force detains an enemy combatant of any sort on the battlefield, our soldiers are prohibited, on pain of significant punishment, from mistreatment of that prisoner beyond reasonable means of detention and security, even if "aggressive" interrogation might very well reveal impending attacks on our soldiers against which they would otherwise not be prepared. In other words, American soldiers cannot torture or mistreat a prisoner to save the lives of other American or allied soldiers.

It bothers the Colonel more than just a little bit that there are Americans who would justify waterboarding and other means of torture--in effect sacrificing our principles--to protect ourselves. It bothers me even more that self-described patriots would take up the defense of these un-American acts. Want to know who the real patriots are? They are the men and women who have placed their lives on the line for the rest of us. Interestingly, you will not find many veterans defending torture. They understand.

Cheney doesn't.
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