Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Torture & War: Sen. McCain Speaks With Authority

It did not come as news this week that the CIA had tortured terrorism suspects. Americans already knew that. So did our enemies.

The U.S. Senate select committee’s controversial report accomplished much more, however, than to simply provide the brutal, degrading, horrifying details.

Equally disturbing, if not more so, was the conclusion that agency officials deceived the Bush administration and Congress into believing that the practices were successful — and into defaulting on their duty to oversee what should never have been done on America’s behalf.

Hear U.S. Sen. John McCain on that crucial point:

“I suspect the objection of those same officials to the release of this report is really focused on that disclosure, torture’s ineffectiveness, because we gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer. Too much.”

If there was anything more discouraging than the report itself, it was the partisan abuse that other Republicans, including the evil Dick Cheney, hurled at Sen. Diane Feinstein and her Democratic colleagues who had struggled for five years to expose the inconvenient truths.

Sad to say, there weren’t that many Democrats with the guts to defend her. And even the Obama Administration had contributed to the delay.

A nation’s character is sullied not merely by those who willfully traduce it, as the CIA did, but by those who would conceal and excuse the offenses — and by doing so, enable more of them.

Those enablers include U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida’s junior senator, who flatters himself that he is qualified to be president.

He proved quite the opposite when he voted as a committee member against publishing the report and denounced its release Tuesday. His statement offered not a single respect in which the report was wrong.

Rubio should read what his fellow Republican McCain said — I doubt that he was in the Senate chamber to hear it — and go off somewhere to hang his head in shame.

No one in politics speaks — or ever spoke — with more authority than McCain on the subject of torture. He endured it repeatedly during six years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

Rubio was still in diapers when McCain came home.

There isn’t enough space in a column like this to do full justice to McCain’s heartfelt remarks, but they can be read at length on his website, www.mccain.sen.gov, and seen and heard atwww.c-span.org (search for McCain).

Here’s a summary of what McCain said.

The Senate committee’s study was “thorough and thoughtful.” The truth is “sometimes a hard pill to swallow,” but the American people “are entitled to it. … they must know when the values that define our nation are intentionally disregarded by our security policies. …

“I have long believed some of these practices amounted to torture as a reasonable person would define it, especially, but not only the practice of waterboarding, which is a mock execution and an exquisite form of torture. …

“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. …

“Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies — our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights which are protected by international conventions the United States not only joined but for the most part  authored. …”

Bad things happen in war, McCain said; sometimes, good people do them. Those who did wrong in this case meant well.

“But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods which…were neither in the best interests of justice nor our security nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend. …

“But in the end, torture’s failure to serve its intended purpose isn’t the main reason to oppose its use…This question isn’t about our enemies, it’s about us. It’s about how we were, who we are, and what we aspire to be. …

“It is essential to our success in this war that we ask those who fight it for us to remember at all times that they are defending a sacred ideal of how nations should be governed. …

“We need not risk our national honor to prevail in this or any war. We need only remember in the worst of times through the chaos and terror of war, when facing cruelty, suffering, and loss, that we are always Americans and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.”

Thank you, Senator.

We needed that.

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the St. Petersburg Times. He lives near Waynesville, North Carolina. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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