I spend a lot of time in hotel rooms all across the country for my job. Last week, I found myself in a Quality Inn in Omaha, Nebraska. I was watching the TV and flipping through the channels and I found myself stopping on a story on CNN. Please understand that normally I do not pay too close of attention to political matters, but I was drawn into this story.
They were talking about how the Senate Intelligence Committee had issued a 500 page executive summary of its 6,000 page report on the CIA’s use of torture. Some of the stuff discussed in that report really made me stop and think about the idea of torture and how our country uses it.
They were talking about the case of Nazar Ali. Ali was al Qaeda, but by no means was he one of their masterminds. In fact, his own captors described him as “intellectually challenged.” Despite this fact, he was held in the facilities that the CIA uses for what is described as “enhanced interrogation.”
He was not being held because he knew anything that the CIA would find useful. In fact, no one could say that he was ever actually interrogated at all. Instead, the report stated that Ali was detained “solely as leverage to get a family member to provide information.” Part of the “leverage” discussed in the report included playing a tape of Nazar Ali crying for his kinsman.
The CIA is known to have waterboarded at least three other prisoners. If you are not familiar with waterboarding, it is a way of simulating drowning and can, according to Wikipedia, cause “brain damage from oxygen deprivation,” “damage to lungs,” and, in some cases, even death. Up until a few years ago, waterboarding was considered a form of torture, but recently, that line has become blurred.
In addition to this, other forms of torture inflicted onto prisoners of al Qaeda include, according to the report, “standing on broken limbs for hours,” and being “deprived of sleep for up to 180 hours, sometimes standing, sometimes with their arms shackled above their heads.”
Compared to others held in detention, it would seem that Nazar Ali got off lightly; or did he?
Is it me or does this just seem wrong? I’m not talking about specific laws or policies, but just basic human common sense. That part deep inside our souls that tells us that this is just wrong.
I clearly remember 9/11 and whenever I hear the word al Qaeda, I think of that day and the thousands of innocent people who lost their lives. It is a day that forever changed us as a country. Nothing we ever do will ever take away that tragedy and loss of life.
In my opinion, torture is intrinsically evil. It is wrong regardless of the circumstances. The use of physical and psychological violence to extract information from people is completely contrary to the idea of having respect for a person and for human dignity. It also goes against everything Jesus taught us about loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Think of how Jesus was tortured and how terrible of a thing that was. Jesus died in about the worst way imaginable, and even when he was being tortured he asked God to forgive those torturing Him. That in itself should tell us how wrong of a thing torture is.
We, as Americans, can’t just turn the other cheek and ignore the fact that our government is torturing people. We as voters have a responsibility to let our leaders know that torture is incompatible with basic human decency and it won’t be tolerated. If we fail to do this, then we are tainted. We are just as responsible as those who are inflicting the actual torture.
None of this is to deny that America has enemies and that swift and decisive action against those enemies is necessary. The Scriptures make it very clear that there are times when taking a life is not only permitted, but it may be a necessary part of what it means to love your neighbor.
But the same things can’t be said about torture and the practices described in this report. These practices trade someone else’s human dignity for a sense, which may be only illusionary, or added safety. It’s a trade that no person in good conscience should be willing to trade. It is also something that we should condemn.
Not only for Nazar Ali’s sake, but for our own as well.
I am very interested in hearing what you think about the topic of torture. Are you for it or against it? Maybe it is not purely a black and white matter, but filled with many hues of gray that making judging each individual act separately based on the circumstances.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I have learned with experience, that going with my gut feeling when it comes to things, usually keeps me pretty close to the path I should be on. What do you think?