Sunday, December 18, 2005

THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH on "The Torture Debate"

Gregory Djerejian understands. Many of his readers do not. That's not surprising. Many of us court Ares as we face the nihilistic fanaticism of Al Queda's butchers. Unfortunately, when we court Ares, We ignore Athena. That's the difference between sound victory and phyrric victory. Or self-destructive defeat.

Mr. Djerejian of THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH offers his perspective on "The Torture Debate." His bottom line? He finds the justification of torture as policy violates the character, competence and very fiber of our identity as Americans. He believes Senator John McCain's stand against torture is rooted in the late Ronald Reagan's position. He shudders at the dark road we walk:
the Reagan Administration and U.S. Senate decided to implement CAT's Article 16 in the following manner:
With respect to Article 16 of the Convention, the Senate’s advice and consent was based on the reservation that the United States considered itself bound to Article 16 to the extent that such cruel, unusual, and inhuman treatment or punishment was prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. According to U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence, whether treatment by public officials constitutes “cruel and unusual” treatment that is prohibited by the Constitution is assessed using a two-prong test. First, it must be determined whether the individual who has been mistreated was denied “the minimal civilized measures of life’s necessities.” This standard may change over time to reflect evolving societal standards of decency. Secondly, the offending individual must have a “sufficiently culpable state of mind,” indicating that the infliction of pain was “wanton” or, in the context of general prison conditions, reflected “deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety.” Given the Senate’s understanding that Article 16 was not self-executing and the fact that the United States did not adopt implementing legislation with respect to CAT Article 16, it appears that the United States agreed to bind itself to CAT Article 16 only to the extent that it was already required to refrain from cruel and unusual treatment or punishment under the U.S. Constitution and any existing statutes covering such offenses.
Got that? The U.S. agreed to be bound to CAT Article 16 to the extent that we honored our obligations under the 5th, 8th and 14th Amendments. This is what the Reagan Administration agreed to. And this, precisely, is where John McCain fought the good fight, after the aberration of the Yoo memorandum and such, to get us back to. Yes, you read that right. This whole McCain Amendment hullabaloo was a fight to simply get us back to standards that the Reagan Administration had already advised and agreed the United States adhere to. Despite Levin's cherry-picking evasive tactics, this is the simple truth. Read the McCain Amendment people, the relevant language is here:
d) Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Defined.--In this section, the term ``cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment'' means the cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as defined in the United States Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment done at New York, December 10, 1984.
McCain has fought to protect Reagan's legacy on this issue, not dismantle it so as to endanger the polity, as Levin evidently purposefully distorts. Ah, but you say enemy combatants and military necessity and so on. But a fair reading of the CAT is to conclude an absolute prohibition on torture: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

But enough of these nettlesome legal details and tired old dragging out of Army Field Manual practice. All this is somewhat yawn-inducing, no? The bottom line here is that we are involved in a global campaign against terrorism where winning the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims, as Lee Kuan Yew points out in the current Forbes, will prove paramount. Like it or not, many Arab Muslims don't care for Israel much given the current state of conflict that exists between them and the Palestinians. So wrapping up detainees in the flag of Israel, while it's certainly not as gory as plucking away George Clooney's fingernails and such a la Syriana, just isn't very smart policy. Ah, and all this talk about menstrual blood. Like, what's the big deal, dude? In a society undergoing steady Las Vegasification and Paris Hiltonization, is it any wonder so few seem to give a shit that American female soldiers, due to tactics personally approved by our Secretary of Defense, would rub their breasts and pretend to smear menstrual blood in the face of detainees? Sounds almost fun, the lap-top brigades giggle on, sign me up for a lap-dance too! But it's all very ugly, in reality, as the foot-soldiers tasked with implementing Don Rumsfeld's dirty bidding well know. As I had excerpted here:
The struggle was lost during the interrogation of a 21-year-old Saudi. The man was believed to have taken flight training with two of the September 11th hijackers. Interrogators got nothing from him. After each gruelling session, he returned to his cell and prayed, but a female interrogator sought to break him by making him feel dirty before his God. With the prisoner shackled in an uncomfortable position, she unbuttoned her blouse and began rubbing her breasts against him. “Do you like these big American tits?” she asked. She made another sexually crude remark, then added, “How do you think Allah feels about that?”

The prisoner spat in her face. She grew cruder. She told him she was having her period, unbuttoned her military trousers and wiped what she said was menstrual blood on his face (it wasn't blood; it was from a red magic marker). He screamed but did not break. Outside the room, she began to cry. So too did Mr Saar. “I hated myself.” Tears rolled down his cheeks. He went home, and took a shower, but “there wasn't enough hot water in all of Cuba to make me feel clean.”
This is corrupting. And sickening.
We used to understand all this. We understood that humanity is addicted to evil. We respected with humility the fact that we can all commit heinous wrongs in the dogged pursuit of something Right. We therefore respected the line that we dare not cross.

Not so, anymore. As Stephen King might say, "the world has moved on." No, we now understand the sad reality of life. We know that we must sometimes do evil that good may come. And besides, everyone knows that terrorists are no longer human. They're the lowest of the low--authentic, life-hating demons. And what will we do if they know where the ticking bomb is? Which one of us would sacrifice our family to principles?

Well, my dear Fools, the unfortunate confession of our own sinfulness does not legitimize the inherent evil in the world to which we've surrendered. Just because many of us would fail to honor the inherent human dignity of even a terrorists if our families were on the line does not make torture we might commit licit. We can't make evil good simply by calling it so. And we imperil the very heart of our being when we justify the commitment of intrinsic evil of any kind. Such as torture.

God forgive us if we ever explicitly, and without obfuscation or apology, adopt (or approve of) policies that mandate torture. How disheartening that so many Foolables will carry the water of Reasonable Crusaders of Justice, who would achieve security by any means necessary.

If we forget who we are, then we fight to protect a homeland we don't recognize. If we tear ourselves away from the Grace of our Savior through the use of torture, then we may save our society and culture--at the cost of our souls!

Mr. Djerejian understands. When will the rest of us?