Monday, February 18, 2008

America: No Longer The Good Guys

In a February 17 New York Times op-ed, Morris Davis (Air Force colonel, former chief prosecutor for military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from 2005 to 2007), took a huge career risk by going public with his thoughts about Guantanamo. I imagine he did it for the sake of integrity, and a love for his country, and the rule of law. His article begins:

TWENTY-SEVEN years ago, in the final days of the Iran hostage crisis, the C.I.A.’s Tehran station chief, Tom Ahern, faced his principal interrogator for the last time. The interrogator said the abuse Mr. Ahern had suffered was inconsistent with his own personal values and with the values of Islam and, as if to wipe the slate clean, he offered Mr. Ahern a chance to abuse him just as he had abused the hostages. Mr. Ahern looked the interrogator in the eyes and said, “We don’t do stuff like that.”

I am grateful that more and more military personnel, assumed (at least by me) to be conservatives, are resisting or exposing the disastrous policies of the Bush administration. George Bush continues to justify torture as something that protects us from terrorists, and from war. But in the long run, this is very far from the truth. Davis goes on to say that Iraqi troops surrendered in droves in the Persian Gulf war in 1991, because they knew they would not be mistreated by the United States. Because we were considered "the good guys." These surrenders saved American lives and time and money.

Unfortunately, at the end of Davis' article, he also said, "There are some bad men at Guantánamo Bay and a few deserve death, ..."

Nobody deserves to die. Not even people who caused the death, mutilation or displacement of thousands of innocent people, like Saddam Hussein, and the entire Bush administration. Death sentences are barbaric. Countries that still employ the death penalty are barbaric. Because the United States still employs the death penalty, we cannot fully earn the reputation as "the good guys."

To evolve as human beings, as a country, and a world leader, we Americans need to be able to say, about torture and punishment by death, “We don’t do stuff like that.”