What Makes This Country Great
A betrayal of our most precious values
"We do not torture," President Bush said on Monday. Never mind all those torture pictures from Abu Ghraib. Never mind all those torture stories from Guantanamo Bay. Never mind the 2002 Justice Department memo that sought to justify torture. Never mind reports of U.S. officials sending detainees to other countries for torture. Never mind Dick Cheney lobbying to exempt the CIA from rules prohibiting torture.
"We do not torture," said the president. And that's that, right?
I mean, if you can't believe the Bush administration, who can you believe? No torture. Period, end of sentence.
But . . . What does it say to you that the claim even has to be made?...
We were the nation of moral authority, the nation of moral high ground, the nation that lectured other nations about human rights. And you know what? People believed us. They rush to our shores because there is freedom here, yes; because there is opportunity here, yes; but also because we stood for something, which was more than the tin-pot tyrants who ran their countries could ever say.
What a difference a presidency makes. "We do not torture," he says...
In the name of fighting terror, we have terrorized, and in the name of defending our values, we have betrayed them. We have imprisoned Muslims in America and refused to say if we had them, why we had them, or even to provide them attorneys. We have passed laws making it easier for government to snoop into what you read, who you talk to, where you go. We have equated dissent with lack of patriotism, disagreement with treason. And we have tortured.
Yes, Bush says we don't do that kind of thing but, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, who you going to believe, him or your lying eyes?...
"We do not torture," says the president. I can remember when that went without saying.
I hope Leonard Pitts will keep saying it. I hope I can keep saying it. I hope that by saying it loudly enough, often enough, and thoroughly enough that we finally excise this fast-growing malignancy and keep it from killing this country. For both the logic of what we are doing to others, and the lying that we are doing about it, whether it be self-deceit (to be generous to the President) or arrogant duckspeak, leads to only one place.
And that place is where both Leonard and I would have to think twice before we said anything, because we might be arrested for saying it, and, yes, maybe even tortured for it.