Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thoughts on the Torture Memos

Like many Americans, I'm appalled at the immoral "legal" advice given by the Bush Administration's Office of Legal Council. I do think that the people who wrote these memos, and those who gave support to them in the Bush Administration need to be investigated. To this point I've heard nothing from the Obama Administration that rules out such investigations. What he has ruled out, and I think that he is probably correct in this matter, is to eliminate prosecutions of those who carried out these orders. Now, many will disagree, but I think that from what I'm hearing across the spectrum is that such prosecutions would further demoralize our intelligence community and likely hinder reform. I know some of my blogger friends will jump on me for saying this, but Obama is a smart politician and he's also very deliberate -- he has much on his plate and won't go there.

That being said, I think that we will likely see more actions in the days to come. I think you will see an investigation on some level of those who wrote the memos -- if not from the government, from the American Bar Association.

What can we do, from a faith perspective, that will be helpful?

Instead of focusing our ire on the President, let us educate our own people on the issues before us. In our churches, many of our people are firmly of the opinion that torture, if it will protect one of our citizens may be problematic, but necessary. They've bought into the Jack Bauer "ticking time bomb" idea. The problem that these memos reveal goes to the heart of the American psyche. And while part of me would love to see Dick Cheney prosecuted, I'm not sure that it would change things all that much. I'm not sure, either, that any convictions would be forthcoming.

Yes, what has been revealed shines light on darkness, but the question is -- how do we deal with the darkness revealed?

I think some steps have already been undertaken -- including ending the use of such tactics and declaring the immoral. That may not be enough for some, but it is a start. Let's give this some time, to see where it leads.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps as many churches and community organization as possible could extend a hand to those actually involved to share what they learned. Or to invite them to share in writing and have services for them and those who may have unjustly suffered and in some cases died. We should include all those who suffered under unendorsed acts also.

I assume we will compensate those unjustly punished by the process.

Most are probably good people who look back on their own actions in horror, and will so for eternity

Many of us don't want to hear the truth. That should not stop us from action (again). Invite them to speak.

We need to handle our collective guilt. It was encouraged by us all in some way through what we’ve done and/or have left undone.

I was hoping I could travel abroad soon with my head held high..sigh.

David Mc

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...


Your statement about not wanting to hear the truth reminds me of that statement by Jack Nicholson's character in A Few Good Men:

"you want the truth?" "You can't handle the truth." There is much "truth" in that statement. We don't like hearing the truth!

As for traveling with your head held high, everything I'm seeing in the news suggests that Obama is helping make that more possible -- especially in places like Latin America. Still a ways to go, but progress is being made.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you know I'm wanting to go to Dominicaagain, don't patronize me... Kidding

Anonymous said...

Never means never

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I am not terribly worried about "demoralizing the intelligence community." It's a nest of vipers that needs cleaning out. They practically threatened the prez with refusing to give him needed intelligence if he even released the memos. The CIA has tried to run presidents before.

It used to be the FBI was this bad. It took Hoover's death and a thorough housecleaning in the '70s. Now, we need to do the same thing and the CIA and NSA. At the very least, everyone who can be identified as a torturer should be fired and "blacklisted" from hiring in intelligence work.

The law is the law. Human rights are human rights. We don't just set aside justice for fear of demoralizing spies.

We didn't prosecute Nixon and we got worse. If we don't prosecute the Bush admin. some future administration will do this and worse, again.

Further, we are putting our military at risk--if captured we have given every incentive for their captors to torture them. And we lose leverage to getting cooperation in intelligence. Our allies will not trust us if they have to indict Cheney and co. in foreign courts because we won't do it.

This mess cannot just be swept under a rug. I list several actions to take on my blog.

Anonymous said...

If you all believe what you are saying, then you should be saying the same things about everyone. Why do you not condemn torture and injustices that other countries and leaders have committed? After 911, you all wanted our leaders heads for not protecting us, now you want their heads for protecting us. Where is your outrage for Darfur, where is your outrage for Saddam's torture, or Chavaz and Castro for torture and arrest of political dissidents and who knows what they do to them, a lot worst. Gee, Obama took credit for the murder of those innocent Samolia's, perhaps the next administration will bring him to justice for his acts. Dosen't killing three teenage boys on a dingy give you reason to protest? Obama gave the order, should he not be held accountable for the torture, leaving them stranded with no food on that dingy for 5 days, and then killing them as they sat there innocently on that ocean?

MikeQ said...

Bob, David and others please admit you have no problem with Obama ordering the use of deadly force to prevent one group of people from harming another. Otherwise it is time to condemn the recent killing of Somali pirates.

Until you do so, you are hypocrites in my eyes and have lost any credibility.

David Mc previously attempted but failed miserably to provide a justification.

In both instances you have a person or group threatening the lives of innocent people.

Were the Somali pirates deserving of death? If they were please explain at what point you support the death penalty?

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Mike Q,

I'm not exactly sure what you're up to. I don't see any connection between the Somali hostage situation and torture. One is, as David says, a police action. You have a hostage situation, and if necessary in hostage situations you take deadly force actions, if the hostage takers won't give up their hostage.

What does that have to do with torturing someone to get information? First of all, it's against international law to torture. We prosecuted people in WWII for doing exactly what we were doing. And it cost us moral authority in the world. If you can explain the similarity, I'd love to hear it -- but to this point you've simply not made any sense at all.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Anonymous, I DO criticize other countries for torture. So does our state dept, but we kind of lose all credibility, now.

But condemnation of torture, like charity, needs to begin at home.

MikeQ said...

I see. It is a police action. That clears things up.

I was really just looking for a set of parameters under which you believe deadly force is justified. That is all.

Police action is your answer.


John said...

How about a more radically Christian response: violence is never acceptable. It is certain that people will resort to violence when they feel threatened, but a our Christian response should be prophetic not apologetic - violence is never acceptable to God.

It is unlikely that we will bring an end to violence or war or oppression. As humans coping with a human problem, our desired impact in more limited, to cause people to rethink the necessity - they may still resort to it, but they will do so with hesitation and with a moral dilemma chasing them all the way - and maybe next they will hesitate longer.

As Christians we should be the voice of peace, justice, forgiveness and dignity - unwaiveringly so, in the face of the most desperate circumstances and the direst of threats, we should be the voice of love and forgiveness - even at the risk of sounding inane even at the risk of proposing martyrdom.

There will be plenty of prophets of violence. we need not add to their numbers. Instead we need to call them to conscience - but first we need to hear and receive the radical call of God.


MikeQ said...

Bob, I believe terrorist threats and hostage situations are very similar.

In both situations you have one person or group threatening to harm another. The hostage takers are using terror to gain something.

You have now confirmed you support deadly force to end the threat in one instance, but are condemning the use of far less force in the other.

I always find it interesting when a person chooses to throw stones in one situation but ignores the other. I can't imagine politics affects your decision. Then again...

John said...

So I stumble across this:

Thomas said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” John 20:25

And I just know we need to think and pray on it before we can establish our response to the torture, the memos, their release, the torturers, and the tortured.

Who are we and what is God speaking to us now?


Anonymous said...

MikeQ the troll says.."David Mc previously attempted but failed miserably to provide a justification."

Thanks for the false witness Q.
I never tried to justify anything. Someone simply asked the difference between the situations.

I implied things may not be so easy to ignore. True already?.
Tide turns towards prosecution and investigation
Faced with overwhelming public demand,
Obama now says he is open to prosecution

Thanks to the public's outcry, the torturers-in-chief could soon face prosecution. Click this link to help our movement grow and popularize the demand for the indictment of Bush.

Dear David.,

The government's effort to stop prosecution has backfired. In the last few days the demands from people around the country and the world for the investigation and prosecution of Bush Administration torture officials has caused a dramatic shift in the U.S. political scene. IndictBushNow has mounted a major campaign flooding Congressional representatives with demands for justice and a constituent letter writing campaign to newspapers around the country.

MikeQ said...

Dear David,
I understand it is hard for you to concentrate while Obama is holding shiny objects.

I can now understand why your intern stopped communicating with you. Apparently she knew you better than I. I wonder if you also used name calling and false judgements to beat her into submission. As for me, it took a while but now I know exactly who you are. We bumped into each other last week. You judged me on my appearance and used that superficial judgement to add context and dismiss the few words I spoke. I now know exactly who you are.

Anyone who reads the comments on this and Bobs previous post will see who is giving false witness.

Now that I know who you are, I will not expect an apology.

John said...

And I thought David's use of the term "troll" was merely a rather blunt metaphor for an unsophisticated over-reliance on brute force to solve complex problems; it never occurred to me that one would think it referred to a blogger's physical appearance.

And while I am not defending either the actions of the Bush Administration or of the Obama Administration, it cannot be denied that there is an obvious difference between using deadly force to prevent known criminals with a drawn and aimed guns from murdering someone, on the one hand, and using deadly force (in violation of explicit international treaties and in the face of the professional consensus that such force is generally ineffective) in an attempt to obtain information from someone who may or may not have such information, on the other hand.

Significantly, the pirates could have avoided the use of force by merely giving up the hostage and their weapons; their choice. The torture victims had no option, no way to stop the torture; it would continue until they died or until the torturers decided they were of no further use. Even if they gave up information, the psychology of torture is such that there is no way to verify the value of the information except through further torture. If they had no information to give, the psychology of torture is such that there is simply no basis to accept the truth of such protestations except more torture. Either way, one who is being tortured is caught in a catch 22 from which there is no escape.

To give due credit to the MikeQ's comparison, I have read accounts from snipers that sometimes after a successful kill, there is a significant feeling of horror and guilt due to the personal awareness of the target's utter defenselessness. But in this situation the pirates knew they were exposed to snipers and that if they made any false moves with their weapons toward the hostage they would be shot without warning.

I don't know that confusing the two situations arises to the level false witnessing, but it is fallacious reasoning.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for motivating me Q. The letters and petitions didn't seem quite enough. I know I shouldn't feed the trolls though.

Dear David,

Thank you for your generous donation of $--.-- to the IndictBushNow Campaign Donation.

Thank you very much for generously donating $--.-- to IndictBushNow Campaign Donation.

Indicting Bush and his co-conspirators is the means by which We The People of the United States can tell elected officials that they are not above the law. There are repercussions for their illegal actions, and we can force accountability for crimes committed.

This is truly a grassroots campaign, and your generosity makes a difference.

Once again, thank you for your support.


Anonymous said...

An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response[1] or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.[2]

John said...

Wikipedia also says about the term: "The contemporary use of the term is alleged to have first appeared on the internet in the late 1980s, but the earliest known example is from 1991. It is thought to be a truncation of the phrase trolling for suckers, itself derived from the fishing technique of slowly dragging a bait through water, known as trolling."

I like it. But I think my take on the term's use here may be just as accurate.


MikeQ said...

So everytime I post you (David) will throw more money at that website?

You David are a genius although your posting on this topic and others lack any evidence of fruit(love, joy, peace...).

John, you are a funny person. I appreciate your thoughtful response. I disagree with your assumption the threat posed by KSM was less real than that of the Somali pirates, but you seem to at least have thought it thru.

While Obama was distracting David with shiny objects, the evil CIA claimed further releases of classified documents would prove their actions were successful in preventing a second wave of 9/11 style attacks. I believe Obama should immediately release all documents relating to the techniques not just those he can use politically.

David I know you. You are an angry person. I feel sorry for you. You've placed all your hopes and dreams on one man and have now found he is not the person you judged him to be. You need Jesus. He will not let you down.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Okay, I'm going to step in here and declare a moratorium on the conversation as it now stands -- which has degenerated.

To Mike Q, your last comment is really out of line -- at least if you are trying to portray yourself as a Christian. To try to end an argument by telling someone they need Jesus is, in my mind as a pastor, inappropriate -- and counterproductive from a Christian perspective.

MikeQ said...

Sorry Bob, I should have written he needs to put his hopes and dreams on Jesus not on man.

I'm trying to point out Davids judgement of my motivations for posting are not productive. I now believe you and David are selectively throwing stones based on your political affiliation instead of your spiritual one.

I realize you sympathize with his views and are motivated by politics.

Read my initial post. I did not support the interrogation techniques but simply equate them with Obamas recent actions. Was deadly force the only option? Since Obama has claimed involvement couldn't he have sat down with the pirates, smiled at them and talked them into releasing the pirates?

Anonymous said...

awww... busted. Good call.

Peace out. It's Earth Day.

David Mc