Left Justified: Torture

It was torture for me to see President Bush’s reinauguration. But the torture is nowhere near the pain and suffering our so-called enemies will feel in the next four years.

Right now, there are a few thousand Muslims under lock and key around the world. Most experience some form of harassment, and I’m sure many have been interrogated past the letter of the law. And the only law that protects these prisoners, the Geneva Convention, apparently is not read by this American administration.

Torture should not be allowed, in my humble opinion. Amnesty International, which works for human rights for all people, has tried to get the United States and other civilized countries to come out against torture. People around the world have tried to get the United Nations to pass more stringent laws against the use of torture, but to little avail.

When the government uses torture, they’re doing it for a “higher cause,” or to protect innocent life, they say. But many experts in that field say torture doesn’t work. It not only elicits false and inaccurate information, but, you must believe this, it is debilitating to the torturer.

Those who inflict awful punishment themselves become jaded and depressed. The Nazis, when they were shooting homosexuals, Jews and Communists, discovered their soldiers were affected in negative ways. The torturing officials themselves either became brutes or neurotics. That’s why the German master race developed gas chambers; so that their soldiers wouldn’t have to watch their victims die.

When I was in Vietnam, I saw with my own eyes the debilitating effect of punishing innocent civilians. The soldiers who had come to that Southeast Asian country to liberate and protect it from the Communists, became themselves angry and frustrated. I heard many soldiers, fresh from the field of battle, speak of “killing all the gooks” and letting God sort them out. I saw the best generation of young men turn into racist murderers. The soldiers who could keep their wits returned to America to protest the war. Even today, 50 percent of the Vietnam veterans say it is a bad war.

So, as the Iraq war drags on, our sons and daughters will be called upon by their leaders to do some ugly things. Will the American people allow their children to become torturers and mass murderers? When soldiers return with misgivings about their actions, will the American people listen and respond? Our leaders’ arrogance and so-called righteousness may lead us down a slippery path of torture and brutality that will return to haunt the homeland for generations.

I urge, no, I pray you to tell your elected representatives to oppose any form of torture and to propose international standards for civilians caught in the midst of war and for those soldiers caught and ensconced in our prison camps.

And speaking about the war in Iraq, check out the film The Battle for Algiers to be shown Monday night, Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, Rockford, free and open to the public. This is a fast-paced novelization of the French fight to keep the colony of Algeria.

This is the one film many American infantry soldiers are shown to give them an idea of what they face in Iraq. The movie shows the French using every means necessary to thwart the Algerian “terrorists” or “freedom fighters” (depending upon your point of view). That, of course, includes torture. The end of the show proves how fruitless the French’s battle was. I’m not sure if the American people will get the point. It’s a long film, so bring munchies to share.

And may torture be left in the dustbin of history.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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