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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The torture issue: Where’s the shame?

    Lillie Kilburncolumnist
    Lillie Kilburn
    columnist

    We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. We’ve been accused, by multiple European nations and by the European Union itself, of abducting terror suspects for interrogation (read: torture) in secret European prisons. Yet the reaction from the CIA itself and from our nation has been overwhelmingly nonchalant.

    Though the CIA and the White House have usually declined to comment on the story, the responses we have given have been blase and self-justifying: We didn’t do that, but if we did, it wasn’t technically illegal, so who cares? After all, it’s only Europe that’s accusing us.

    It’s hard to understand, though, how we – as a government and as a nation – can react so dispassionately. These accusations ought to be horrific to us. In every way, the actions we’re accused of contravene our most basic American ideologies.

    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted in 2005 that we do transport accused prisoners to foreign nations for the purposes of imprisonment and interrogation (although she denied the use of torture.)

    She justified the practice, called “”extraordinary rendition,”” by saying, “”The captured terrorists of the twenty-first century do not fit easily into traditional systems of criminal or military justice, which were designed for different needs … We consider the captured members of al-Qaeda and its affiliates to be unlawful combatants who may be held, in accordance with the law of war, to keep them from killing innocents.””

    But it doesn’t really matter whether extraordinary rendition can be justified as legal for one reason or another. The point is that it’s antithetical to the principles we’re supposed to hold most dear. These terror suspects are just that – suspects.

    There was once a notion we called “”due process of law,”” which came from our own Bill of Rights. It was designed to defend against practices like extraordinary rendition.

    If we’re acting as good Americans, we ought to abide by that principle – not because it’s the law, but because it’s our nation’s philosophy. If we violate that philosophy to preserve the United States we love, the thing that is preserved loses the attributes we loved most.

    Some might say this would be better than seeing our nation go up in terroristic flames. Some might even say that torture is justified if it protects our citizens. In fact, the CIA program might be legally permissible under the UN Convention Against Torture as long as the CIA did not believe it was “”more likely than not”” that its abductees would be subjected to torture.

    Yet, even looking at the issue in our traditional dispassionate manner, it’s obvious that extraordinary rendition and torture cannot be truly justified in a moral sense, even for the sake of national security.

    First, there’s no certainty that the U.S. would go up in flames if our CIA did not secretly abduct and torture terror suspects. As many practical pundits have argued, torture is notoriously ineffective. More tragic still, it

    Torture cannot be truly justified in a moral sense, even for the sake of national security.

    seems the CIA has been less than efficient in pinpointing “”terror suspects.”” In some situations, it allegedly abducted innocent individuals possessing nothing graver than names that were similar to those of suspected terrorists.

    It is absolutely certain, however, that by endorsing these practices we are losing our cultural heritage: our principles. The U.S. cannot fulfill our ancestors’ dream of providing a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world if the rest of the world is either coddling its secret torture bases or indicting it for secretly abducting prisoners.

    The U.S. cannot fulfill its promise of justice and freedom to all if we continue to say, “”The captured terrorists of the twenty-first century do not fit easily into traditional systems of criminal or military justice, which were designed for different needs.””

    Perhaps one of those different needs was the need to be good and moral, nobly to carry the responsibility of being a great republic. Perhaps now it’s more important for us to be expedient and practical or to be legally defensible.

    Once, however, we would have considered extraordinary rendition to be abhorrent and wrong. What’s more, we would have considered it un-American.

    Lillie Kilburn is a psychology sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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