Why US Should Not Go Against Consensus on Torture
To Whom evil is done
do evil in return.
Poet W. H. Auden 1939
[Once again, the grim picture of an innocent man, Paul Johnson, employee of the US weapons supplier Lockheed Martin, being blindfolded and held captive, makes our hearts go out for him and his grieving family. Innocent people should never become pawns in the political conflict. But the Americans should direct their anger at the US Administration, rather than the captors. The Americans should not be naive to believe that the US could invade any country at will, bomb and kill thousands of innocent people, rape and decimate the country and expect no retaliation in return. While there is still hope that a last minute reprieve may come to Johnson, the fathers and grandfathers of Afghan and Iraqi children, tortured and killed by the Americas, will never return...
In the article below, Loyola University School of Law professor Sarah Whalen argues that if the American government could capture innocent people, torture and kill them in violation of international laws and conventions, then the golden rule ""Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" applies.
"...We have committed horrors. We have brutalized innocents. We have caused pain and humiliation. What is left?
What is left is...our turn..." ]
Why US Should Not Go Against Consensus on Torture -By Sarah Whalen
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, 17 June 2004 — What would Jesus do? US President Bush claims to ask himself this often. And most Christian Americans can easily relate, because from childhood, that is what we are taught to ask ourselves.
But what answer does the Christian Bush get? That's the scary part.
What would Jesus do... to captured enemies? "Love thy neighbor as thyself," Jesus said, quoting the Jewish Leviticus.
Jesus propounded Hebraic law, which says humanity needs only one law to thrive: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the law. All else is commentary."
This is Christianity's "Golden Rule," and some form of it is found in virtually all the world's religions and ethical systems. Muslims are exhorted by the Hadith: "None of you is a true believer until you wish for your brother what you wish for yourself."
The Golden Rule is the very basis of modern international human rights, of which the Geneva Conventions are certainly a part. The Geneva Conventions came into being because of the West's inhumanity to man during World War I, and are intentionally and inextricably linked to a growing, worldwide consensus that oppression, mass murder, genocide, and torture are wrong. That there are some things we just cannot do to one another.
After World War I, awareness grew that soldiers were not really the "enemy," but mere pawns, caught up in their nations' deadly games. They were husbands and fathers and sons, friends, and neighbors, ordinary people just doing their governments' bidding, hoping for things to end soon so that they could return to plowing their fields, tending their shops...back to daily living.
What would Jesus do to captured enemies?
Bush didn't pose that weighty question to Jesus. Instead, he asked his lawyers. And Bush's lawyers told him that torture was fine.
Not to worry.
Good to go, as they say in the military.
And the Geneva Conventions' and other military law's prohibitions on torture, and regulations on how to treat prisoners? These don't apply, said White House lawyers, because Iraqi insurgents and Afghani fighters and those others from wherever who fight alongside them are not true "combatants" entitled to the Geneva Conventions' protections. They are not soldiers of any state formally at war with the United States.
Apparently, wars with euphemistic enemies like "terror" and "evil" are not subject to Geneva Conventions' restrictions.
Funny thing, though. US military forces throughout the Middle East are heavily supported by commercial military "contractors." Triggermen and truckdrivers. Translators and typists. Troubleshooters of all types.
They are Americans. But are they "military combatants" entitled to the humane protections of the Geneva Conventions?
No. They are not.
One can only guess how they will be treated, now that these Geneva-protectionless armed insurgents and others are capturing them.
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", says the Golden Rule.
We can only pray that the insurgents do not "do unto others" as Americans did unto them.
Can we complain when Americans are kidnapped off the streets, spirited away from their homes and families, not given any access to the Red Cross, not allowed to see lawyers, not allowed to contact their families, who have no idea whether they are dead or alive?
We did this to Muslims in America right after 9/11, to Muslims in Afghanistan, and to Muslims in Iraq. Guantanamo prison remains full of those caught up in Muslim "sweeps." And we have done worse. Because war is hell. And war on "terror" and "evil" is particularly bad.
We have committed horrors. We have brutalized innocents. We have caused pain and humiliation. What is left?
What is left is...our turn.
Will the Americans who are stripped naked and raped, who are forced to stand, trembling as vicious dogs snap and lunge at their genitals, be young army guys and gals from Nebraska or Illinois? Will the Americans who are beaten and repeatedly slapped in the face, ears boxed into deafness, be young Marines from Oregon or South Carolina? Will the Americans who are electrically shocked and sleep-deprived be National Guard from Vermont or Florida?
Will these tortured Americans be 19 years old, joining the military just to get their college paid for? Will they be 32-year-old dentists from Spokane, lawyers from Schenectady, housewives from Des Moines, who were called up for duty? Or will they be defense contractors from California and Virginia who want to serve "America" while handily socking away $2,000 a day?
US soldiers and contractors took digital photographs of their White-House authorized handiwork. And these pictures should be fine, right? Because US government lawyers have given this whole process the thumb's up.
Good to go.
The pictures to come of naked, hooded Americans with wires attached...who will they be? Fathers, brothers, sons...mothers, sisters, daughters.... Where will they be from? Ohio? Or Nevada? Any electoral swing states?
What would Jesus do now? It's time to ask the president.
— Sarah Whalen is an expert in Islamic law and taught law at Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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