Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Torture in an Age of Cowardice

When I was young in the age of John Kennedy, through books like Profiles in Courage, we learned that the brave did not torture. At my law school reunion, I was reminded that this wisdom has been abandoned by some empowered people in the United States.

Edwin D. Williamson, a former legal advisor to the Department of State, spoke on a panel on public policy and constitution law in response to terrorism. For him, the question was not should or should we not torture, but when and how. Another alum of my school, Barry Sabin, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department in Washington, DC, defended the institution of the detentions at Guantanimo Bay. All the panelists, even the one who spoke against both these contentions, accepted as fact that we live in a new world where there is a special new danger called terrorism, which suddenly appeared on the world scene in September of 2001, a new horror which changes all the rules of law for civilized nations.

October 6, 1979, flight 455 from Caracas, Venezuela was bombed killing all the civilians on board, and Cuba lost its Olympic fencing team. The flight was downed by two bombs set to go off, one, then a while later the other. The plane struggled to return to its point of origin after the first bomb set the cabin on fire, the second bomb brought it down. The masterminds of the bombings, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada were not trained by Al Queda, they were trained by the CIA. Bosch did not disappear into the hills of Afghanistan, he lived openly in Florida. George Bush, the elder, granted him political asylum. Orlando Bosch ... worked for years with Frank Sturgis, making 11 private air strikes on Cuba. In September of 1968, he fired a bazooka into the hull of a Polish ship at anchor in Miami Harbor. He was sentenced to ten years for that, but was out in 1972, resuming his terror campaign. His career of bombings and killings ranks him as one of the most prolific murderers of our nations history, and yet, he lived openly and worked openly as a terrorist in the United States until his death of natural causes.

Barry Sabin's response to my question, referring to Bosch, and asking if the world has not really changed, and more, if we are not in part responsible for the world as it now is, responded that four of Bosch's associates were recently tried and found guilty in the US. Interestingly, we did not torture them or send them out of the scope of American law. Nor have we atoned to Cuba for the harm we have caused that nation by our toleration (at least, aid most likely) of decades of terrorist attacks on that neighbor. The question, has the world really changed, the question of our own support of terror went unanswered.

In order for law to be law, it must be applied to all with the same standard of fairness and reliability. Law is not law when it is applied one way to friends and another way to perceived enemies. We cannot call for torture for others and expect the world to be outraged when our citizens are tortured, and more, we cannot use terror as a tool and stand in such outrage when it is used against us, that we abandon rule of law in our own nation.

It takes courage to atone for our actions, and it takes courage to live free. Torture is an act of cowardice.


At 10:07 AM, Blogger Plain Foolish said...

As I read the recent battlefield ethics study, I could not help but reflect not only on the damage we have inflicted on both Iraq and our soldiers, but also on the nature of fear. We fear and so we commit acts of violence.

At 2:06 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Well, the post script to this story, is that Luis Posada WAS arrested, as Sabin said. Less than a week after he referred to this arrest in explaining we were getting tough on terrorism, Posada was released. I expect, in spite of his bombing campaign against tourist hotels in Cuba, he will, like Bosch, be granted asylum. Weep for the nation folks.


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