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i’m afraid of americans

April 24, 2009

What really scares me about people is the fact that they can justify almost anything, including the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” to extract information (RELEASED: The Bush Administration’s Secret Legal Memos).

Many people say that enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding aren’t torture. I think that when it comes to things like waterboarding, however, especially when used in combination with other harsh interrogation methods, it’s easy to say that it’s not torture when you’re not the one undergoing such treatment, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to go through anything like that myself. Nor would I want anyone else to.

I don’t have any good arguments to support my opinion besides the fact that I find the intentional infliction of pain and mental anguish deplorable — especially when it’s done in secret, without any kind of transparency or accountability whatsoever, and has the potential to cause irreversible damage — but I think that’s enough.

I can’t say for sure, but I’m reasonably certain that being captured, blindfolded, shipped off to a foreign country and then subjected to things like prolonged psychological abuse and waterboarding would mentally scar me for life. Granted, I’m not a hardened terrorist, I’m a rather ‘soft’ law-abiding citizen of the United States; but even so, I doubt those people will ever be the same after going through such an experience.

I’ve listened to both sides of the debate, and while I think that proponents of enhanced interrogation techniques make some good points, I simply can’t justify treating another human being like that for any reason. For one thing, it’s most likely against the law (Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C of the U.S. Code). And even if it isn’t, I don’t think it’s acceptable, even if lives might theoretically be at stake, and I don’t want my government engaging in such activity.

I know that our Founding Fathers weren’t perfect, but one of the things I think people like Washington and Adams had right were their views on the treatment of prisoners, which Robert F. Kennedy Jr. details briefly in “America’s anti-torture tradition,” a 2005 op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times.

Regardless of the rationale or the particular circumstances involved, the fact that American soldiers and intelligence agents were (and possibly still are) torturing prisoners is one of the reasons I’m afraid of Americans.

And the fact that we’re not the only ones who do this is one of the reasons I’m afraid of the world.


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