Sustainable Torture

While I had a beautiful weekend of planting fruit trees, singing in church and spending time with Thor, I woke at 5 this morning from a dream of a man being tortured, specifically waterboarded. Do you think I might be troubled by President Bush’s recent veto of Congressional efforts to curb the CIA’s “harsh interrogation tactics” (torture) of prisoners?

Politics is not my primary topic, because it’s covered so thoroughly elsewhere and because I think my power lies more in how I live than in criticizing the President in a nation of 300 million. But I can’t live in my own skin anymore (or sleep well, evidently) without speaking my outrage at the immorality of torture.

The eighth amendment to the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. And even if it didn’t , a basic moral conscience would prohibit it. People of other countries or different political beliefs are just as human as we are, and we lose our morality to the degree that we behave otherwise. I have read many arguments that torture does not elicit better information from prisoners than other methods — but to me those are peripheral arguments because merely prudential. If torturing your dog was not the most effective way to housebreak it, would that be the only reason you’d refrain?

Sustainability is about upholding the value of life, from a place of principle, not mere convenience. I am outraged by a President whose legacy includes insisting on the ongoing executive right to condone torture.

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