Whenever I hear an argument in favor of employing torture techniques by our government, I’m truly dumbfounded, because the sad truth sinks in: through the use of torture, the United States is no better than its enemies, and the fact that we’re even having a discussion about the use of torture, or having, as a country, a pro-torture policy in place, makes my head want to explode.
Fortunately, however, President Obama realized this unsettling fact, and one of his first acts as President was to suspend the torture program through an executive order issued in January of 2009. While this was a step in the right direction, there are still areas where President Obama has, sadly, continued and expanded the destructive policies of the preceding administration, including indefinite detention, drone strikes, the kill list, the signing of the NDAA, the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay, etc.
However, a Romney presidency could all but wipe out that single piece of progress. In a five-page memo obtained by The New York Times, Romney advisors have urged him to “rescind and replace President Obama’s Executive Order restricting government interrogators to the Army Field Manual.” The Army Field Manual, as it now stands, forbids such techniques as “prolonged sleep deprivation, shackling into painful “stress” positions for long periods while naked and in a cold room, slamming into a wall, locking inside a small box, and the suffocation tactic called waterboarding,” authorized by the Bush administration.
But what’s frightening about the Romney memo is this passage:
“Consistent with the authority reserved for the President under the Military Commissions Act, he could commit his Administration to authorizing (classified) enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives. But because President Obama’s release of the OLC memos has reduced the number of available techniques that meet this criteria, Governor Romney should not commit in advance to a timetable for implementing this plan; it may well take time to identify potential techniques and analyze their effectiveness and legality.
“Governor Romney has recognized for years that the sounder policy outcome is the revival of the enhanced interrogation program.”
I don’t know about you, but that just sends a chill down my spine. If you’ll remember, the release of OLC memos was fairly shocking, and laid out the extent to which the Bush administration tried to finesse the practices into compliance with international law, as The New York Times reported in 2009:
Together, the four memos give an extraordinarily detailed account of the C.I.A.’s methods and the Justice Department’s long struggle, in the face of graphic descriptions of brutal tactics, to square them with international and domestic law. Passages describing forced nudity, the slamming of detainees into walls, prolonged sleep deprivation and the dousing of detainees with water as cold as 41 degrees alternate with elaborate legal arguments concerning the international Convention Against Torture.
I know people have all but forgotten that George W. Bush and his administration ever existed, but we need to remember those eight years, and remember how much of our soul we actually lost under his watch. His administration stripped away any and every shred of decency and humanity this country had, and he sent us down a dark road of torture and cruelty.
Is that something we really want to return to with Mitt Romney? Or does it just not matter anymore?