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Torture Is Not an American Value

Are we going to stand behind American values or stand behind the Bush administration?

January, 2007: "Torture Is Wrong" Sign At The International Day To Shut Down Guantanamo Bay, Supreme Court (Washington, DC) (Photo: takomabibelot)

Conservatives are freaking out about the Senate torture report, and nowhere are they freaking out more than on Fox So-Called News.

Host Andrea Tantaros, for example, went on a crazy rant after hearing that the report was being released and repeated “America is awesome” over and over again.

You know, you’re right. Andrea. America is “awesome.” America is “awesome” because it was founded on liberal Enlightenment values that to this day are shared by most or all of its citizens, right, left, or anywhere in between.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

But there’s nothing “awesome” about torture, especially the kind of torture that the CIA was using on detainees during the Bush years.

I mean, have you even read the Senate’s torture report, Andrea? It’s terrifying. Some detainees were beaten and left to freeze to death in the cold. Others were forced to wear diapers or walk around naked in chains.

And that’s not even the worst of it. Some detainees were also forced to undergo a painful and medically unnecessary process known as “rectal feeding.”

Here’s how the Senate’s torture report describes the rectal feeding of one detainee named Majid Khan:

“Majid Khan was then subject to involuntary rectal feeding and rectal hydration, which included two bottles of Ensure. Later that same day, Majid Khan’s “lunch tray,” consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins was “pureed” and rectally infused.”

That is disgusting, and so fundamentally at odds with our founding values it’s just astonishing.

After the Battle of Trenton in 1776, General George Washington went out of his way to stop his soldiers from torturing their Hessian mercenary prisoners. His order banning the mistreatment of prisoners is still relevant today. It reads,

“Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren who have fallen into their hands.”

That’s what America should stand for, but thanks to the Bush administration, our moral standing has been badly compromised.

Which is exactly why releasing the torture report – or at least the executive summary of that report – was the right thing for the Senate Intelligence Committee to do.

The talking point among Republicans now is that the Committee has “hurt America’s image abroad” by publicizing its findings about the CIA’s torture program.

But that’s just not true. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of the truth.

Our image abroad was already bad because it’s common knowledge that we tortured people. All the Senate Intelligence Committee did by releasing its torture report was admit that what we did was wrong and, in a really graphic way, make it clear that torturing people is at odds with who we are as Americans.

And contrary to what you might hear over on Fox So-Called News, coming clean about your mistakes and saying they conflict with your values is a great way to increase your standing in the world.

Just look at South Africa. During apartheid, it was a pariah state. But after apartheid ended and the new multiracial government held a truth and reconciliation commission to look into the crimes of the old regime, South Africa was welcomed back into the world community with open arms.

The truth is that the people who say they’re worried about how the Senate torture report will ruin America’s reputation abroad are really just worried about how that report will ruin the reputations of Bush, Cheney and the other war criminals who got us into this mess.

So whenever you hear one of those fools say, “We’re ruining America’s reputation by coming clean about torture,” translate that in your brain to “We’re ruining Bush and Cheney’s reputation by coming clean about their torture programs.”

This whole discussion really just comes down to one simple question: Are we going to stand behind American values or stand behind the Bush administration?

Either American values are right and George W. Bush was wrong, or American values are wrong and George W. Bush was right.

You can’t have both.

You have to pick one, and by releasing its torture report, the Senate Intelligence Committee picked American values.

That’s a big step in the right direction.

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