Thursday, April 23, 2009


I've posted a few things before on Fox News's Shepard Smith (which you can see here and here), but this next bit is perhaps even more amazing than all that has preceded it. I won't say this is "good" journalism, but on a network that seems to have no definable standard for "fair" and "balanced," it's refreshing to routinely hear one of their main personalities call "bullshit" when the stink gets too much to stand. Check this out.


I've been resisting jumping into the blogging frenzy over the release of the torture memos, though it's not for lack of an opinion. I will say, however, that it's been disturbing to hear so many on the right shift to an "end justifies the means" argument...this, of course, after insisting we hadn't committed acts of torture in the first place. Indeed, there is a point where faith and idealism can be so naive and foolish as to be destructive. Being a devoted pacifist isn't of much use when someone is stabbing you in the gut. But you also don't have to sacrifice all of your ideals in the name of preserving them. That's not some hippy dippy left-wing talk. That's just common sense. You have to adhere to values with some measure of respect for them, otherwise they aren't worth the patriotic pain you feel when someone opposes them with planes into buildings.

Whether torture tactics can be demonstrated to have produced intelligence which saved lives is irrelevant. It's a little blunt but decidedly on point when Shep says, "we are America. We do not fucking torture!" The problems with the debate now shifting to the issue of whether torture was "successful" or not are numerous. I have little doubt there's a memo somewhere, as Cheney suggests there is, that enumerates in vague detail specific instances where torture can be directly linked to the foiling of a plot, or the prevention of harm to American lives. What no memo can accurately tell us, however, is how many lives have been lost and will be lost as a result of these actions solidifying in the mind of every would-be-terrorist just how hypocritical we as a nation can be.

I recently reviewed the fantastic movie The Class. In that movie there is one moment in particular which had a surprisingly strong impact on me at the time, and an even stronger one in the days since. One of the students, a withdrawn troublemaker, is pressed by the teacher to speak up and reveal what it was that had made the student disruptive. Jokingly, the student resists, saying he's afraid he'll get sent to Guantanamo. It's a funny moment, but shortly thereafter that line really started to sink in. Guantanamo is now globally synonymous with the worst of America. It is now and forever a part of our legacy---a punchline, but a punchline to the gut. Not torturing isn't going to make people love us, but committing acts of torture will make them hate us. It will make us seem like a nation of weak people with even weaker principles.

A few more points. First, I do not for one second question the motives of those who enabled this shameful chapter to commence. Bush and Cheney et al, no doubt acted in what they "thought" were the nation's best interests. They, and several conservatives, will view their legacy as people who were willing to make the hard decisions. I haven't heard too many people on the left question this. But good intentions don't matter much when you subvert the rule of law at every step...laws that were put in place so that mere "good intentions" would not overwhelm good sense. It's not a decision to commit torture or not. THIS IS AMERICA. WE DO NOT FUCKING TORTURE. It's not patriotic to love America so much that you're willing to muddy so much of what it means to be American. YOU DON'T GET A PASS BECAUSE YOUR HEART WAS IN THE RIGHT PLACE.

Second, to those who would deny that what has been detailed in the recent memos amounts to're not being honest. I know it would almost be too much to admit that America is, in fact, a nation that tortures, but it is what it is. If these acts were performed on any of our captured servicemen in a time of war, we would cry "torture!" and demand swift justice. If you believe otherwise, you're kidding yourself. It is what it is. We can call it "enhanced interrogation techniques," but that's like pissing on me and telling me it's raining.

The issue of criminal prosecutions is a thorny one, and it's one for which I'm still unsure of my own feelings. What I am sure of is this: admitting we committed torture and that it was wrong is way more patriotic than either denying it, or admitting it unapologetically.

We are America. We do not fucking torture.


Blogger Kraig Smith said...

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April 24, 2009 at 1:01 AM  

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