Democracy mixed with torture?

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Right now, between Congress and the Bush administration, there is a struggle taking shape that will affect our standing as a nation in the world, and we feel, our status as citizens in the United States. This struggle is about legitimizing the use of torture as a tool of our government.

Sen. John McCain, himself a tortured soldier in Vietnam, sponsored a ban in the U.S. Senate on any torture, defining it as "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment." To their credit, 90 senators supported his unconditional ban; sadly however, nine opposed it. Vice President Cheney, representing the Bush administration, has held meetings to pressure members of Congress to allow the use of torture in specific situations. He believes there should be an exception for the CIA, that our government should have the right to torture those people who aren't U.S. citizens, outside our borders, in cases where the president deems it necessary for national security. We agree with Sen. McCain that torture should never be allowed. We were disheartened to discover that Sen. Stevens is one of the nine senators who agrees with Vice President Cheney, that it is legitimate to use torture as a tool of government.

Leaving aside the immorality of the use of torture, consider this: Should the United States claim it as our right, other countries would feel justified in doing the same. Not only that, our standing as a nation worthy of emulating, a nation that believes in liberty and justice for all, a moral and religious nation, would be seriously compromised. Because our elected officials govern as our representatives, they do so with our approval and in our name. When they choose to condone torture as legitimate, the world rightly believes that the American people support such a policy.

Although the reasons for entering this war with Iraq have shifted with time, we are currently telling the world of nations that we need to bring democracy to other countries. Does our democracy include claiming the right to use torture? Is this what young Americans are dying for? Is this really one of the rights we want others to have?

Torture should have no place in the policies of the United States and we should be working toward its elimination everywhere, but especially within this government.

Jim Asper and Bridget Smith


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