Thursday, April 30, 2009

Torturous Email to Family

You really have to watch what you say. For example, I sent a heated email to family about United States torture depicted in Taxi to the Dark Side. If there is any question about America torturing detainees, the film answers it: Yes, we do. In my email I was attempting to “clear up” the loud opinions arguing over the question on cable news, as if there is a question about the techniques we used. Man, was that the wrong email to send! One family member responded with a biblical lesson on “vengeance,” which of course I wasn’t suggesting. Another email responded that “our soldiers deserve” our thanks, and I wasn’t suggesting that they didn’t. That same email said, “I can’t imagine what you live with each day,” referring to my Vietnam service. I wasn’t asking for pity, either. Obviously, I was not clear in my email. So, for the record, here is what I was saying in the email.

·         As to the question whether we (America) tortured or not, the answer is yes. So, this question is settled. You can turn off the talking heads that defend the techniques we used or deny that we used them. You need not go any further. The talking heads are wrong so many times they will simply lead all to an undesirable end.

·         Should we investigate and indict those who authorized the torture? Yes. We are strong enough to take a trial, even if it involves the highest office in our land and even if it doesn’t result in a guilty verdict.

I went on to say that Taxi to the Dark Side made me think of those “flag-waving” emails I frequently get and of the people who “thank me for my service” and how, at a minimum, these made me uncomfortable, and at most, angry. I have a Vietnam memory that comes when I get those emails and when I am “thanked” for my service from people who are not “qualified” to send the email or give their thanks. I explained that “qualified” Americans are those who don’t break their promise to our military; they do not allow us to go into unjust wars, they do not allow our leaders to dictate unjust causes, they do not allow us to use unjust techniques and, lastly, they don’t vote for people who do unjust wars. But, the uncalled memory, I suspect, brought on the pity. The memory wasn’t the point, however. The “promise” was the point.

The military returning from Iraq deserve all of the thanks we can muster. But, there are so few in America who are “qualified” to thank them. The real question is do we deserve them? Did we, as a nation, object when our misguided leaders sent them to Iraq based on lies? I saw a few peace marches and demonstrations around the world and I marched myself in San Francisco. World-wide the marches consisted of a few million people; a small number. I saw a few Congressmen and women objecting, but the majority was eager for war. I saw churches across the nation hold rallies of celebration on the day we invaded Iraq. I heard silence when news of rendition and torture surfaced from the “Dark Side;” so few spoke out against this injustice that their voices could not be heard. And, when John McCain sponsored an anti-torture bill through congress, President Bush added a “signing statement” that the techniques they used were not considered torture, a blatant lie. Hardly anyone complained.

So, much like the Vietnam war, the citizenry of our country did not keep its promise to the military; they allowed, without protest, soldiers to be sent into an unjust war. Frankly, I preferred the greeting I got when returning from Vietnam, somewhat scornful, over that received by the Iraqi veteran; adoration from an unfaithful and hypocritical nation. We broke our promise. We didn’t do enough to stop the war. We sent those young people into a lifetime of nightmares. “Thank you” is not enough.

Lastly is the response I got suggesting that holding our politicians responsible in a court of law is “vengeance.” The biblical quote used, of course, was “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” This suggests that our courts are established for vengeance and that we should let the Lord deal with our criminals. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. We must hold those responsible for breaking the law. My sister not only misapplied the verse to our courts of law, she also used the biblical quote out of context, as usual. In context, here is Romans 12 17-21 from the International Standard Version:

Do not pay anyone back evil for evil, but focus your thoughts on what is right in the sight of all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with all people. Do not take revenge, dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me. I will pay them back, declares the Lord.” But “if your enemy is hungry, feed him. For if he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you will pile burning coals on his head.” Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

One could argue, and this is the position I take, that invading Iraq was vengeance; evil for evil. One could argue, also my position, that the torture we used was vengeance; again, evil for evil. It is only when we judiciously decide the innocence that is presumed, or guilt that must be proven of alleged rule and law disobedience that we are not being vengeful. It seems so clear to me.

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