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Torture and America’s Soul

Torture and America’s Soul

Published: January 15, 2013
Photo: AFSC / Joe Guthrie

January 11th 2013 was the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp which has become a symbol of our country’s torture policy. It was also the day that the new movie about the capture of Osama Bin Laden, “Zero Dark Thirty” came out in movie theatres around the country.

While the use of torture was not a contributing part of the capture, many are seeing the movie as a vindication of our torture policy.

”Just to reiterate the consensus: torture did not help national security. The chairs of the Senate intelligence and armed services committees, in addition to a recent Republican presidential nominee and torture survivor, and the acting head of the CIA, have all publicly announced that the film’s depiction of torture exaggerates its usefulness. Shahid Buttar written for People’s Blog for the Constitution

The movie has sparked a huge amount of attention and has opened up a major debate about the use of torture. Did it work, didn’t it work, is it necessary for the capture of terrorists as 47% of people in the US believe? What has got lost in the debate is the impact of the use of torture on our credibility as a country.

 Chuck Fager, writer and former Director of Quaker House in Fayetteville NC, writes: 

 “The loss of credibility may still be easy for many of us to ignore, but consider: today, what tyrants will do other than smirk and snicker at U.S. State Department reports tut-tutting about their lousy human rights records? Not that our hands were ever entirely clean; but the years of Maya's (the heroine in Zero Dark Thirty) obsession were also when the U.S. sank to unprecedented lows. At home, those years similarly yielded steadily increasing domestic repression, from wiretapping to the coordinated crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street, and now the growing shadows of domestic drones circling above our homes and streets.

Yet credibility is not a strong enough term for this loss. Honor helps. But "soul" is better. Dr. Martin Luther King's motto for his civil rights career was, "Saving the Soul of America." The crusade by Maya, the CIA and their White House masters to find and kill OBL (Osama Bin Laden) succeeded, but along the way America lost much, perhaps most, of its "soul." (See Link to full article)

 With the attention on torture we have an opportunity to have some impact. A number of us handed out flyers outside the movie theatre when Zero Dark Thirty opened and were encouraged by the number of people who took our flyers and went into the movie to consider it critically.

Last month the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a 6,000 page report of the CIA’s interrogation practices during the Bush era. "The report uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, after the vote.

 The release of this report is vital and as Dixon Osborn of Human Rights First said, "Telling the American people the truth about torture isn't a task that should be left up to speculative reporting, Hollywood filmmakers, or publishing houses. It should be based on the facts. Thankfully, that report already exists. Now it should be made public."

 The release of this report is essential in light of the nomination of John Brennan as head of CIA; someone we know favored rendition and the use of torture. It is vital that we know his role in the use of torture and his participation in Obama's secretive, unaccountable drone war.

We can all contact our Senators calling on them to authorize the release of the Senate Intelligence Report on Interrogations. We have a right to see what our Government did in our name. Not till we face up to our past can we as a country start to regain our standing in the world and start the process of “Saving Our Soul.”