It further tattered an already tattered image of the United States abroad, most especially in the Muslim World. Politicians expressed their outrage and held hearings. The Pentagon launched their investigations. And in the end, only the low-level soldiers who physically did the abusing were punished. None of the top brass were ever taken to account, even though most believe this sort of behavior could only come from the top down. And as time continues to pass, more and more allegations of abuse of prisoners at the hands of U.S. personnel continue to surface.
The U.S. Senate, for its part, responded to this unsettling chain of events. On Wednesday October 6, the Senate added a provision to a defense appropriation bill that would prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in U.S. government custody anywhere in the world. It also requires that service members follow procedures in the Army Field Manual during interrogation of prisoners under the Pentagon's control. The amendment was sponsored by Sen. John McCain, a former POW himself, and passed with a vote of 90-9. It was a strong message that America does not stand for torture, no matter who the prisoner is.
The Administration, on the other hand, is sending a different message. It strongly opposes the McCain amendment, and the White House has signaled that it may veto the entire spending bill if it contained the detainee provision. House GOP leaders echoed this opposition. They already removed similar language from the House version of the defense spending bill, and they have also signaled that they will try to weaken the Senate's anti-cruelty amendment when the bill goes to conference committee. What a disturbing set of circumstances.
Now, I fully realize that the suspects being interrogated may be hardened terrorists who will stop at nothing to maim and murder innocent Americans. I hate them, too. I hate them, in fact, even more than those charged with interrogating them because, they do their evil deeds in the name of my faith. Nevertheless, it does not mean that it is appropriate to torture them. Could there be anything more un-American than torturing another human being? Could there be anything more antithetical to our country's values and ideals? Is our way of life so meaningless that we ourselves stoop to the inhumanity of our enemy?
If an American soldier was ever captured and later tortured, our people would rise up in rightful outrage and indignation. We would be disgusted to our very core because, it is simply not right to torture another human being. If that human being turns out to be a Muslim terror suspect, and we as a people quiet our indignation, then we say to the rest of the world: "It's OK...they're only torturing Muslims." What a horrific message to send indeed.
It is important that our image in the Muslim World be rehabilitated. It is important that America be seen for the wonderful country it truly is. Yet that is not why the Congress should send Sen. McCain's anti-torture provision to the President. The Congress should send it - and the President should sign it - because torture is not a part of who we are. It never was, and if the provision becomes law, it will show the world that it never will be.