Succumbing to the Dark Side

Torture is a violation of U.S. and international law. Yet George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, on the basis of legally incompetent memos prepared by Justice Department officials, gave the OK to interrogators to violate U.S. and international law.

The new Obama administration shows no inclination to uphold the rule of law by prosecuting those who abused their offices and broke the law.

Cheney claims, absurdly, that torture was necessary in order to save American cities from nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. Many Americans have bought the argument that torture is morally justified in order to make terrorists reveal where ticking nuclear bombs are before they explode.

However, there were no hidden ticking nuclear bombs. Hypothetical scenarios were used to justify torture for other purposes.

We now know that the reason the Bush regime tortured its captives was to coerce false testimony that linked Iraq and Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda and Sept. 11. Without this "evidence," the U.S. invasion of Iraq remains a war crime under the Nuremberg standard.

Torture, then, was a second Bush regime crime used to produce an alibi for the illegal and unprovoked U.S. invasion of Iraq.

U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) understands the danger to Americans of permitting government to violate the law. In "Hold the Torturers Accountable," he said that the U.S. government’s use of torture to produce excuses for illegal actions is the most radicalizing force at work today. "The fact that our government engages in evil behavior under the auspices of the American people is what poses the greatest threat to the American people, and it must not be allowed to stand."

One might think that the American public’s toleration of torture reflects the breakdown of the country’s Christian faith. Alas, a recent poll released by the Pew Forum reveals that most white Christian evangelicals and white Catholics condone torture. In contrast, only a minority of those who seldom or never attend church services condone torture.

It is a known fact that torture produces unreliable information. The only purpose of torture is to produce false confessions. The fact that a majority of American Christians condone torture enabled the Bush regime’s efforts to legalize torture.

George Hunsinger, professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, has stepped into the Christian void with a powerful book, Torture Is a Moral Issue. A collection of essays by thoughtful and moral people, including an American admiral and general, the book demonstrates the danger of torture to the human soul, to civil liberty, and to the morale and safety of soldiers.

Condoning torture, Hunsinger writes, "marks a milestone in the disintegration of American democracy." In his contribution, Hunsinger destroys the constructed hypothetical scenarios used to create a moral case for torture. He points out that no such real-world cases ever exist. Once torture is normalized, it is used despite the absence of the hypothetical scenario.

Hunsinger notes that "evidence" obtained by torture can have catastrophic consequences. In making the case against Iraq at the UN, former secretary of state Colin Powell assured the countries of the world that his evidence rested on "facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence." Today Powell and his chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, are ashamed that the "evidence" for Powell’s UN speech
turned out to be nothing but the coerced false confession of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who was relentlessly tortured in Egypt in order to produce a justification for Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq.

Some Americans, unable to face the criminality and inhumanity of their own government, maintain that the government hasn’t tortured anyone, because waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" are not torture. This is really grasping at straws. As Ron Paul points out, according to U.S. precedent alone, waterboarding has been considered to be torture since 1945, when the United States hanged Japanese military officers for waterboarding captured Americans.

If the Obama regime does not hold the Bush regime accountable for violating U.S. and international law, then the Obama regime is complicit in the Bush regime’s crimes. If the American people permit Obama to look the other way in order "to move on," the American people are also complicit in the crimes.

Hunsinger, Paul, and others are trying to save our souls, our humanity, our civil liberty, and the rule of law. Obama can say that he forbids torture, but if those responsible are not held accountable, he has no way of enforcing his order. As perpetrators are discharged from the military and reenter society, some will find employment as police officers and prison officials and guards, and the practice will spread. The dark side will take over America.

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Author: Paul Craig Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.