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Torture Is Not Apple Pie
The Threat To America
When I was in Law School I was asked by a group of conservative students whether Islamic Fundamentalism was the greatest threat to Western Civilization. My answer shocked them. In my opinion the greatest threat to Western Civilization was not Islamic Fundamentalism but rather Western Civilization's reaction to Islamic Fundamentalism.
There has been much debate in the last few months on the issue of torture. President Obama released memorandums prepared for the Bush Administration that argued that water boarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" should be used and could be argued that they were not torture. The memos were released by the Obama Administration in an attempt to clear the air about this issue and improve America's reputation around the world. Instead, the release of the torture memo has opened up a Pandora's box of allegations and accusations and now pits President Obama versus former Vice President Dick Cheney. Obama argues that torture is never appropriate under any circumstances. Cheney argues that the use of water boarding and other torture techniques saved America lives and the failure to use these techniques is dangerous and puts America in danger. Simply, former Vice President Cheney is wrong and the current President is correct.
The Former Vice President Is Wrong
I am not one of those liberals who believes that Dick Cheney is an evil man. I believe he loves his Country and as Vice President tried to run the Country as best as he could while trying to deflect interference with governing from George Bush. Mr. Cheney has stated that watching his Country attacked on television while sitting in an undisclosed underground bunker changes a man's views about his responsibilities. Mr. Cheney now argues that enhanced interrogation techniques are necessary to keep us safe and are only used on a limited basis on terrorists dead set on killing all of us.
Mr. Cheney's view is a view of the world that is a direct result of 911 and the horrible attacks that destroyed the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, the field in Pennsylvania and the innoncence of a Country. The Bush Administration said over and over again after 911 that the world had changed because of it.
Where this post 911 analysis of the world gets lost is while the world may have changed after 911, the ideals and values of the American Experiment should not. As Ronald Reagan said, America is a "Beacon on a Hill" that stands for justice and equality around the world. The use of torture ordered by the highest authority in order to defend "American values" is wholly repugnant to what America is supposed to be. While basic human instinct and the necessary and normal need for revenge for those lost on 911 encourages the torture and humiliation of those accussed of attacking us, our belief in the laws and ideals of this young democracy must triumph. Mr. Cheney's stance, while normal on a basic human level, is simply contrary to the very ideals and values he claims to be defending. This is why he is wrong.
President Obama Is Right
During his campaign for the White House, Barack Obama offered Americans change. He promised a return of hope and optimism to our national lives. However, Barack Obama was not really offering change, but rather was offering a return to the America we all knew before 911. An America that offered hope to the world. An America rooted in optimism despite the odds. An America that spoke of freedom and justice and openly advocated for such. The America that stood in front of the Berlin wall and said tear this down. The America that brokered peace between centuries old rivals. Barack Obama promised a change to what we once were.
To renounce torture, as President Obama has done in recent weeks, is not an act of weakness. It is not an act of cowardice. It does not make America less safe nor does it give hope to our enemies. Instead, by publicly renouncing torture, it shows that no matter what is done, American ideals and values will live on. It tells the Terrorists that even if you kill our citizens, we will not stop enjoying the very freedoms you hate. It says that terrorism will never defeat Liberty.
So yes, we will capture terrorists and send them to jail. We will use all interrogation techniques available under the law. But we will follow the law. We will abide by our ideals and values. We will honor those who died for liberty and freedom by continuning to preach and practice every day. And in the end we will defeat the terrorists. We will defeat them by killing some, by sending others to jail. But mostly, we will defeat them by flaunting our freedoms and liberties across the world. We will defeat them by continuing to be that Beacon on the Hill. We will defeat them by not lowering ourselves to the community of nations that use thugery and brutality to create the image of security. We will defeat them by never letting them defeat the rule of law.
Torture Is UnAmerican
Even though it may appeal to the basic human instinct of revenge, torture cannot become as American as Apple Pie. Too many have died throughout the history of America for freedom and liberty to allow America to fall into the depths of fear and brutality. Former Vice President Cheney may very well have the well being of the Country at heart when he advocates the use of torture to keep the Country the safe, but he does not have the well being on the nation's soul at heart. If we abandon every safeguard to liberty and freedom in order to "keep America safe," what are we really defending?
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