Torturing the Rule of Law

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While
Congress is sidetracked by who said what to whom and when, our nation
finds itself at a crossroads on the issue of torture. We are at
a point where we must decide if torture is something that is now
going to be considered justifiable and reasonable under certain
circumstances, or is America better than that?

“Enhanced
interrogation” as some prefer to call it, has been used throughout
history, usually by despotic governments, to cruelly punish or to
extract politically useful statements from prisoners. Governments
that do these things invariably bring shame on themselves.

In addition,
information obtained under duress is incredibly unreliable, which
is why it is not admissible in a court of law. Legally valid information
is freely given by someone of sound mind and body. Someone in excruciating
pain, or brought close to death by some horrific procedure is not
in any state of mind to give reliable information, and certainly
no actions should be taken solely based upon it.

For these reasons,
it is illegal in the United States and illegal under Geneva Conventions.
Simulated drowning, or water boarding, was not considered an exception
to these laws when it was used by the Japanese against US soldiers
in World War II. In fact, we hanged Japanese officers for war crimes
in 1945 for water boarding. Its status as torture has already been
decided by our own courts under this precedent. To look the other
way now, when Americans do it, is the very definition of hypocrisy.

Matthew Alexander,
author of How
to Break a Terrorist
used non-torture methods of interrogation
in Iraq with much success. In fact, one cooperative jihadist told
him, "I thought you would torture me, and when you didn’t,
I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong.
That’s why I decided to cooperate." Alexander also found that
in Iraq “the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to
fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters
for al-Qaeda in Iraq.” Alexander’s experiences unequivocally
demonstrate that losing our humanity is not beneficial or necessary
in fighting terror.

The current
administration has reversed its position on releasing evidence of
torture by the previous administration and we must ask why. A great
and moral nation would have the courage to face the truth so it
could abide by the rule of law. To look the other way necessarily
implicates all of us and would of course further radicalize people
against our troops on the ground. Instead, we have the chance to
limit culpability for torture to those who were truly responsible
for these crimes against humanity.

Not everyone
who was given illegal orders obeyed them. Many FBI agents understood
that an illegal order must be disobeyed and they did so. The others
must be held accountable, so that all of us are not targeted for
blowback for the complicity of some.

The government’s
own actions and operations in torturing people, and in acting on
illegally obtained and unreliable information to kill and capture,
are the most radicalizing forces at work today, not any religion,
nor the fact that we are rich and free. The fact that our government
engages in evil behavior under the auspices of the American people
is what poses the greatest threat to the American people, and it
must not be allowed to stand.

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May
26, 2009

Dr. Ron
Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

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