Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Controversy Alert: Torture Is Bad

Here is the text of an open letter which I recently sent to my congressman.

Dear Congressman Sodrel
I am writing to urge you in the strongest terms to support the recent amendment to the military spending measure passed by the US Senate. This amendment establishes a clear policy of the United States that cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment of any prisoner in our custody will not be allowed. It is imperative that the House also support this measure, and do so in numbers sufficient to overcome a possible White House veto.

I am a strong supporter of the global war on terror and on radical Islamic movements that use terrorism to advance their aims. I voted for you and for President Bush in the 2004 election in large part for this reason. Senator John McCain, who was the author and main backer of this anti-torture amendment in the US Senate, is also a strong proponent of staying the course in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, as Mr. McCain recognizes, using torture or other cruel and degrading practices to win information from terrorists is just wrong -- and it is counterproductive. In any counter-insurgency war, winning over prisoners of war, as well as the broader population, is essential. The high profile cases such as Abu Ghraib and the deaths in custody in Afghanistan have done incalculable damage to our cause.

Mr. Sodrel, I am a Christian, and I believe that God sees and hears all things, no matter how hidden and secret. The war we are engaged in is unquestionably just, but if we wish God to be on our side, we must as Lincoln said do our best to be on His side -- and torture and degradation of detainees, many of whom in the nature of war are not actually guilty of any crime, is no way to do this. The US has pledged its faith as a nation to follow the UN Convention Against Torture. The Senate amendment simply asks us to adhere to this standard we have already agreed to. To reject it is to violate not only our legacy of humanity in the treatment of prisoners, first established by General Washington in the Revolutionary War, but also violate our own given faith and word. In ancient Israel, God punished the nation of Judah for violating the treaty made with the conqueror Nebuchadnezzar (Ez. 17:12-21) to pay tribute to him. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God announced that the king of Judah "despised the oath by breaking the covenant. Because he had given his hand in pledge and yet did all these things, he shall not escape." If we despise the agreement we ourselves have freely made, we too will suffer judgment.

I am aware that this current bill is in committee now. But I hope that you will use whatever influence you have to ensure that this amendment stays in whatever version is passed, without any such exemptions such as Vice President Cheney proposed for the CIA. I hope you will also make it clear to the White House that if the resulting spending bill with the anti-torture amendment is vetoed, that you will vote to overturn that veto.

This is a defining moment in the War on Terror. Will we pursue the delusory dream of endless streams of "actionable intelligence", or will we pursue the real security of unwavering justice? Only the latter is capable of winning support, in the Islamic world, yes, but even more in the court of the God of Armies, for the hard blows that need to be struck in the field against the death-squads. You must use your vote and influence to pursue the latter course.

Chris Atwood

"Vice President for Torture"
"Cheney Plan Exempts CIA"
"Senate Supports Interrogation Limits"
"The Torture Question"