Will Your Senators Vote Against Torture?

A coalition of progressive groups has put together a flyer about Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales (headlined “You may not know Alberto Gonzales. But we’re sure you’ll recognize the results of his work”) featuring the infamous hooded Iraqi prisoner. Human Rights First has a brief video segment about Gonzales, along with short and long versions of their position. HRF summarizes their opposition to Gonzales this way:

“He approved a definition of torture so narrow that much of the barbarism depicted in the photos from Abu Ghraib would have been beyond the law to punish. He has contended that U.S. personnel are exempt from the ban on cruel and degrading practices that has been binding U.S. treaty law for more than a decade. And he has embraced the radical view that the President has the power to ignore laws passed by the nation’s representatives in Congress. Such views are anathema to the rule of law, and contrary to the rights the United States has pledged to protect.”

The Center for American Progress has a selection of resources criticizing Gonzales and his unfitness to be our nation's Attorney General. Jonathan Schell's essay “What Is Wrong with Torture” is succinct in its assessment that:

“It is repugnant to learn that one's country's military forces are engaging in torture. It is worse to learn that the torture is widespread. It is worse still to learn that the torture was rationalized and sanctioned in long memorandums written by people at the highest level of the government. But worst of all would be ratification of this record by a vote to confirm one of its chief authors to the highest legal office in the executive branch of the government.”

Marjorie Cohn's “The Gonzales Indictment” begins with the statement “Alberto Gonzales should not be the Attorney General of the United States. He should be considered a war criminal and indicted by the Attorney General,” and then continues with a suggested two-count indictment under the War Crimes Act (which penalizes violations of the same Geneva Conventions that Gonzales referred to as “obsolete” and “quaint”).

The ACLU has published a lengthy report on Gonzales' civil liberties and civil rights record, detailing his failures on issues from rubber-stamping Texas executions and hiding 68,000 pages of Reagan-era documents to designating detainees as “enemy combatants” and approving torture methods such as “water-boarding.”

I urge everyone to ask their Senators to prevent Alberto Gonzales from doing any more damage to our national ideals and our international reputation; the People for the American Way website features an automated Senatorial petition similar to the one at HRF. If you are uncomfortable with sending political messages through third parties, you can locate and contact your Senators here.

Torture is not wrong merely because it is illegal (malum prohibitum) and prohibited by the Geneva Conventions; it is wrong in and of itself (malum in se). When we ignore that distinction, abuse our power, and forego our principles, we are in great danger of staring into the Nietzschean abyss. (See the "Quote of the Day" below.) We, as a nation, cannot simply pretend to be better than the rest of the world; we must actually live up to a higher standard. Alberto Gonzales' low road is not the path that will lead us there.

Thanks for reading.

Quote of the Day:

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146)


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)