I have been listening to the debate about how we define torture and what we allow in the treatment of prisoners in the war on terror. I have heard at least one listener call in to an NPR program on the subject a few days ago and say that how we treat prisoners is a reflection on us as a nation rather than a reflection on them as individuals. That is one of the forgotten keys in the official debate on this subject. As I thought about that sentiment it sent me back to the Declaration of Independence. The second paragraph starts by saying:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Is this the same America that is torturing prisoners, in any degree? If we truly believe that all men are created equal and that all men posses certain inalienable rights including – but not limited to – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness then we should, in all our official conduct, treat all men as if they are equal and as if they posses those inalienable rights. We should, in all our conduct as a nation, do what we can to protect and promote those rights for all people, not just citizens of our nation.
When our nation takes a stand on anything it should be done in a way that upholds the fundamental values of our nation, such as the idea that all men are created equal and posses certain rights. Our soldiers should treat prisoners in a way that acknowledges their equal standing as human beings. Torture is terrorism on an individual scale. Therefore when we practice any degree of torture we become terrorists. If there is one thing we should know about fighting terrorists it should be that we cannot beat them if we join them.
Men of faith (any faith) – as our sitting president claims to be – who recognize a controlling power in the world superior to the United States (I’m not talking about the UN here), should believe that their supreme being will assist the side of righteousness in any conflict between good and evil with the condition that there must be some way to tell the good side from the evil side. So long as we condone any degree of torture – and this may go beyond the Geneva Conventions – we blur the lines between who is good and who is bad in this conflict – no matter how clear the title “War on Terror” sounds.
Update 10/4/2006: I just stumbled upon this discussion from September 25th on NPR: Talk of the Nation. It was very interesting to listen to the perspective of Mr. Dorfman.