Being the good guy

How do you know if you’re the good guy? Why is it important to be the good guy?

I cringe every time I hear the White House Press Secretary proclaim, “we don’t torture.” It gets said over and over again, and I wonder if it’s like the politician who starts sentences with “honestly…,” or “quite frankly….” I think it’s sad that we have to deny we torture people at all. It should go without saying. That it doesn’t causes me considerable shame.

To be fair, it can sometimes be difficult to prove the negative. If some guy says he saw me speeding on the highway, and I’m all alone in the car, how do I prove I wasn’t speeding – besides saying I wasn’t? That’s when you look to the evidence. What if twenty unrelated people said they saw me speeding, on different occasions? What if a policeman saw me speeding and verified the speed with a radar gun? What if I was seen in public telling people I though there was nothing wrong with driving over the speed limit? Would you still think I’m innocent?

Consider that the torture allegations against us have not been isolated. Consider that some of the suspects we’ve had in custody have been evaluated by physicians, who’ve determined that they show many of the signs of being tortured (including complete, psychological breakdown). Consider that administration officials have claimed that only acts which are capable of causing death can be considered torture.

I’m sorry. That’s called attempted murder. It may be a subset of torture, but if you think someone’s got to be on the verge of death for it to be considered torture, you’ve got the moral maturity of a brick. On second thought, that’s not fair to bricks.

Maybe you’re saying to yourself that torture is justified when there’s a ticking time bomb somewhere… that there’s a different kind of war going on which requires different kinds of tactics. What’s my response? How do I defend my liberal bias? Friends, this isn’t an episode of 24, and Kiefer Sutherland ain’t walking through that door. Maybe if you could say with certainty that the person you had in custody was a terrorist, and you could say with certainty that there was a bomb set to go off in an hour, some form of torture might be morally justified. But how often is that really the case? People in favor of torture love to throw that hypothetical situation at you, so I’ve got a few less hypothetical questions for you. How many of the hundreds of people we’ve had in custody (or shipped off to Syria, Pakistan, et al) to be tortured have been actual terrorists? How many were completely innocent? How many ticking time bombs have been ticking off the last few minutes while guilty and innocent alike are having their sanity and/or humanity plucked from their soul? And even if the bomb was out there, ticking off the last few minutes, how many innocent people is it o.k. to torture and/or kill in the frantic search for the bomb? And even if you do have the guilty person in custody, along with countless other innocent people, how do you determine which “confession” is true? Torture almost always gets you a “confession.” However, it occurs to me that it might be a problem having innocent people “confessing” the wrong information.

What really gets me is that every time the White House says, “we don’t torture,” I think of that Canadian who was shipped off to Syria (from the story I linked to a few days ago). I think about the 2000 election, and Bush running as the anti-Clinton… above the lawyerly semantic games such as the famous discussion about the meaning of “is.” I’m at once disgusted and ashamed by such a perfect example of brazen deceitfulness from my government.

We don’t torture… we just make the people who do torture… better.

Just like a deluded liberal, I think we’ve relinquished the “good guy” label for the foreseeable future. I don’t know who’s got it now, but whoever it is won’t have the resources to put it to as good a use as we could.

Give the gift of words.