"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”

Pericles



Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ignoring that Face In the Mirror

As the nation's media has become increasingly distracted by the "She Said, He Said" Pelosi/CIA foodfight, I have one question: When did what she knew become more important than what was done? Lost in this diversionary storyline is the fundamental fact: America has endorsed torture. When a democracy allows its government to embrace the tools of tyrants and despots and holds no one accountable, we risk becoming that which we claim to detest.

The way I see it, our nation faces a fundamental question about who we are as a society. How do we reconcile the use of torture in our names?

Do we choose, as our president seems inclined to do, to move forward by turning the page without another glance? Politically, it's the easiest option. From the White House perspective, stirring up partisan rancor is to be avoided at all costs as the administration works to solve the recession, reform healthcare and address climate change. Focusing on the past will only undermine the agenda of change, or so the argument goes.

I see it quite differently. It is less a question of looking backwards than a matter of looking honestly in a mirror. Any path to health (whether as an individual, a family, or a society) requires this step of self-awareness. Its the fundamental first step of any recovery. If you view what happened as torture (as the Red Cross does), it's unconscionable to simply shrug our shoulders and say, "what's done is done."

If we choose expedience we willingly forfeit our moral standing internationally. It is outrageous that as Americans we are actually debating torture as a viable policy. A democratic society cannot survive if we embrace the tactics of tyrants and despots. By sweeping our sins under the rug, how can we ever hope to relight the beacon of hope that America once represented to the world's masses?

I'll use vocabulary the Right understands.

Torture is evil.

Evil is never justified.

Torture violates domestic and international law. What's so difficult to understand?

Failing to acknowledge these crimes committed in our names could rank as one of the biggest mistakes any administration has ever made. I make this statement fully understanding America's original sin of slavery, our deliberate genocide of the indigenous population of this continent and the long tradition of civil liberty infringements throughout American history during times of war and conflict.

We must understand this: the immediacy and scope of global communications changes the stakes. Failing to address this sin quickly will forever stain us in the eyes of a much more attentive world. The eyes of the world are on Obama. I expect his global admirers are going to be much more disappointed in this inaction than the "angry liberal bloggers."

As for Democrats who fret about the risk of taking our eyes off the ball and derailing the domestic agenda, I simply do not believe this administration is incapable of addressing the economy, healthcare reform and education while torture investigations are underway. This president's team is a hive of multitasking overachievers. Besides, the White House would not be the locus nor the focus of the investigation.

Might it threaten to alienate Republicans we need to enact meaningful reform? Perhaps, but a far different outcome may emerge as investigations proceed. We only need one or two Senators to move the agenda forward. And, I firmly believe there are a handful of Republicans here in DC who do have a conscience and are likely to become extremely squeamish in defending torture once those currently hidden pictures became public.

And why? Because it's becoming increasingly clear that torture wasn't used to keep Americans safe, as Cheney keeps claiming. It was used as part of a desperate search to validate the invasion of Iraq.

That sounds like tyranny.

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