Faith Groups Must Step Up Opposition to Torture
While I have been ill (and, thus, not blogging), the Bush administration has again defended “harsh interrogation techniques” that all previous American administrations condemned as torture. Further, despite the U.S. Constitution’s clear ban (in the 8th Amendment) on “cruel and unusual punishment,” and our obligation to uphold signed and ratified treaties (and the Constitution places ratified treaties as equal to the Constitution itself as “supreme law of the land”) banning torture and all “cruel, inhumane, and degrading punishment,” Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court (THE legal hero of the U.S. Right, including the Christian Right) defended “so-called torture” before a British audience. (This has led the National Lawyers’ Guild to call for Scalia to recuse himself in all interrogation-related cases. I wonder if it is grounds for his impeachment. We have never impeached a sitting Supreme Court Justice, but this seems a clear violation of his oath to defend the Constitution.)
Most disturbing, because most unexpected, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who was tortured (including by waterboarding) as a P.O.W. in Vietnam, recently reversed his longstanding opposition to U.S. torture and torture-lite, by voting against a new law which would classify waterboarding explicitly as torture and require the CIA and others to abide by the U.S. Army Field Manual interrogation standards (which rule out waterboarding). McCain has tried to explain away his vote and claim that he has not flip-flopped on this issue, but it is a clear departure from his previously strong opposition. I disagree with McCain on MANY things, but have given him credit for being the only GOP presidential candidate to oppose torture. Apparently, he wants to be president more than he wants to hold to his principles. This vote seems like a naked appeal to the Right. Apparently, after 9/11, one cannot be a Republican nominee for U.S. president without supporting torture.
Religious leaders and faith groups have to step up our opposition to torture. We cannot count on political leaders to do it for us. There will be an important interfaith mini-conference on U.S. supported torture on 07 March! It will be held at the Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C. (see the link) and co-sponsored by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Pax Christi, USA (the major Catholic peace movement), Rabbis for Human Rights, Washingtion Region Religious Campaign Against Torture, and the Office of University Chaplain of Washington University. Many people will be in D.C. that weekend for the campaign of the Interfaith Peace Witness Against the War in Iraq and the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days.
Pass this information on. We need to press all political candidates to make abolition of torture a primary concern. We cannot end terrorism by adopting terrorist methods. If you have not joined the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, its evangelical offshoot, Evangelicals for Human Rights, or No2Torture, I urge you to do so, now. Get your local faith leaders to speak out more. Write letters to the editorial pages of newspapers. Email presidential and other candidates and let them know that ending torture is a priority for you and that you want them to be louder in their opposition (and especially express your disappointment and displeasure with Sen. McCain). Refuse to vote for anyone who will not end all “harsh interrogation” and other torture and “torture lite” programs.
When your children ask you if you were silent during this crisis, what will you tell them?
Update: Human Rights First has created a petition to all the presidential candidates demanding that the next president reject torture and all euphemisms for torture and prosecute all who use such cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. Sign it here.
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