Do the ends justify the means? America was attacked on 9/11. Does the fact that we have not been attacked since, justify the means used to seek information on any possible attacks in the future?
Let us first review the laws regarding the use of torture. The United Nations Convention against Torture states the following:
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. NO exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
America is signatory party of the UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION. If we as a nation are bound by our obligations number 2 is pretty clear as to their being no exceptions, no circumstances including a state of war or a threat of war that allows the use of torture.
In point of fact, Article VI of the section 2, of our Constitution is quite clear regarding our duty. It states that, “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.”
To hear so-called conservatives talk, we should ignore the law. Laws do no exist just for the convenience of those who are subject to the law. No one is above the law! Do the laws only apply to others? Do you really believe that torture was not used? There is a legitimate question as to whether unlawful combatants are covered by the law. These questions are matters that should be decided at trial not in the court of public opinion. If we do not respect the law we are no better than those who attacked us.
In point of fact, Convention III of the Geneva Conventions, states emphatically that “Nations party to the Convention may not use torture to extract information from POWS. We signed that treaty in 1949 and Congress ratified the treaty.
Regarding unlawful combatants, the Geneva Conventions speaks to this issue as well. The status of a detainee is to be determined by a “competent tribunal” until then they must be treated as a POW. We agreed to the 1958 Red Cross protocol as well which reconfirms that torture is not to be used.
Enough of the law, the law is clear on how we are to treat POWS and unlawful combatants, we are to treat them the same.
It is disturbing to hear the reaction of some people to what the Senate Report included regarding how people were treated. It has been estimated that 25% of the people who were interrogated were innocent. If you listened to Meet the Press, the former Vice President Dick Cheney acknowledged that some people who were detained were innocent and a few were killed. He clearly does not care if they were innocent or if anybody died who was innocent as long as the ends justified the means.
We have even heard that under Christianity we are allowed to use torture. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no imminent threat.
Even under the most extreme hypothetical let us say if we were under imminent threat would torture be justified? I say no, because you can not trust information obtained under torture because the individual will say anything to make it stop.
A reason for never using torture is that if we use it, our POW’S would be under a greater risk of having our enemies use torture against our men and women.
If we are to have laws backed by a moral code, the ends never justify the means. We must decide if we are any longer a nation of laws. Just because we have the greatest military in the world and have the power to ignore international law, doesn’t mean that we should.
We have put to trial and the world has sought justice for crimes against humanity. Individuals from the former country of Yugoslavia were put in the dock for their alleged crimes. Why should a few of our citizens be treated as if they are above the law?
The great fear that I have is that Benjamin Franklin’s admonition is coming true. He warned us about the danger of being willing to give up any liberty for security. He said we would then deserve neither security or liberty. We have already given up far too many freedoms in the name of security. And in the process of having our privacy invaded do any of you truly feel any more secure?
Our behavior has been painfully wrong. If we are to be a shining city on the hill, we must recognize the supreme law of the land and show the world that no one is above the law.