It may have been said before. I don’t know. But, regardless, I am saying it now:
Torture is the language of tyrants written in terrible signs, visible and invisible, upon the hearts and bodies of the oppressed.
That we should harbor that possibility in this country. That a political party that represents half of government should even entertain its use is nothing short of travesty. It is the very implement of an unfair and oppressive government that republicans claim to defend against. So why would they even leave open the possibility of bringing it back?
Among the darkest chapters in this nation’s history were the deaths and human rights abuses that resulted from torture at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, and sporadically around the globe during the War on Terror. That the Bush Administration laid a legal groundwork for torture and vigorously defended it in courts was a devastating assault on human rights and dignity. It was also a dreadful abuse of the American state’s immense power.
In short, it was the willful execution and legal defense of the conduct of war crimes.
When Obama became President, he signed an executive order banning the use of torture by the US Armed Forces, espionage, and counter-terrorism forces. He removed all legal justifications for torture. Furthermore, he waged a far more honorable war against terrorism. A war that was many times more effective than the one fought by the Bush Administration.
A nation’s character can be defined by the way it treats the helpless and the less powerful. The poor, women, minorities, those serving time in prison, and, yes, prisoners of war. The fact that a person fights against the United States does not rob them of basic rights as a human being. And these rights include an abolishment of torture. It is the very premise of justice and honor that the power of a state to do violence is not applied as an act of vengeance or wrath. That it does not revel in causing harm needlessly. Even the ending of a person’s life in battle, a terrible consequence of the awful but sometimes necessary act of defending a nation through violence, does not fall to the level of abuse and torture of prisoners.
So it should deeply concern you that Mitt Romney, Presidential candidate for the Republican party, has again opened the door to torture. That the shadow of torture once again falls over the face of America.
According to news reports from Politico and the New York Times, Romney campaign spokewoman Andrea Saul has said that Romney would not rule out ‘enhanced interrogation.’ As you may well recall, ‘enhanced interrogation’ was the euphemism Bush Administration officials used to justify torture techniques like waterboarding or locking prisoners for extended periods in 3×3 foot boxes. In addition, and equally worrying, Romney has belligerently rattled his sabre, making unnecessary and possibly damaging statements about countries like Russia, Iran and China.
But what is more worrying is that Romney is bringing back a key Bush lawyer who helped pave the way for legalized torture. Steven Bradbury is well known for his signing memos to the CIA and DOJ claiming that harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding were legal. In a 2008 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Bradbury claimed that harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding had a basic justification in law.
Leaving the door open for torture and inviting back legal counsel well known for its defense of wretched acts does not bode well for American democracy or for her standing as a leader of justice in an increasingly dark and difficult world. Given Romney’s stand on this and many other key issues, it is obvious that the dark spirits of the Bush Administration are far from banished. In fact, in light of economic positions and including this terrible stance on torture, it would seem that Romney is bringing all Bush’s old wraiths back with a vengeance.