Barack Obama has declared that he intends to allow torturers in the military, CIA and other government agencies to remain free, without prosecution for their war crimes. Physicians, psychologists, interpreters, agents, soldiers who participated in torture got the nod and wink from Obama that what they did was okay, because it was done “in good faith”. It’s depressing to think that the politician who campaigned on a promise of change now supports the idea that torture can be done “in good faith”.
An article in the Washington Post published this morning, referred to by Jim last night, shows how true “good faith” reacts to an order to torture. It says no.
The memo ought to end once and for all the debate about whether Bush-Cheney “enhanced interrogation” tactics were torture. The memo, written way back in 2002 by the Pentagon’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, uses the blunt phrase “torture of prisoners”, to describe these tactics, and warns, “The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel.”
This memo shows that some people within the military tried to oppose the use of torture. When they were given an order to take part in activities they knew to be illegal, they resisted. That was their duty. That’s what “good faith” requires.
Others in the military did not resist. They followed the orders to torture, and to support torture. They agreed to commit crimes, failing in their duty to the Constitution and to their country. Their acquiescence took place in bad faith.
Now, we the American People are being faced with an ethical choice much like the choice faced by the soldiers and spies, government doctors and counselors who were asked to take part in torture. We are being asked now, by President Barack Obama, to turn away and just forget that our government organized an international conspiracy of systematic war crimes.
Walking away in silence is not what good faith does. It’s our turn to take a stand, and refuse the easy path of going along with what we’re being asked to do. It’s time to write our own memos, reminding President Obama and our representatives in Congress that torture is a crime, no matter who gives the order.