Reader's View, detainees: Time to tell the truth about torture

April 30, 2013 

An independent investigation recently released by The Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment documents how the United States used interrogation techniques on detainees, tactics the United States had previously condemned as illegal when used by others.

The report discards the euphemism of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and clearly states that U.S. forces engaged in torture. The task force found that "the arguments that the nation did not engage in torture and that much of what occurred should be defined as something less than torture are not credible."

The task force report describes how government lawyers manipulated the law in order to claim that torture was legal when everyone knew it was illegal. It describes admirable attempts made by individuals in the armed forces and civilian agencies to stand up for U.S. law and American morality, and it shows how our political leaders and their handpicked lawyers found ways around the law.

Drawing on public records and task force members' own interviews with a number of eyewitnesses and involved persons, the report describes in detail numerous examples of torture, including several cases in which individuals were literally tortured to death.

The report describes the confusion that was endemic in our government's response to terrorism. It shows how the United States captured and held as prisoners detainees who have not been proved to have any connection to terrorism, how our government mistreated detainees in capriciously cruel ways, and how our political leaders deliberately decided to set aside both legality and morality. Tragically, it also describes how our frontline troops were left to fend for themselves in the absence of moral leadership from above.

Our faith commands us to respect the dignity of all persons and that of God in all humans. Our Quaker Meeting has adopted a clear statement of conviction about the failure of our government to abide by basic international standards and the rule of law: We condemn the use of torture. An act of torture is an act of evil. No exceptional circumstance whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture. Torture degrades the humanity of the tortured, the torturer and those who have knowledge of it.

The greatness of our nation is built on the respect for the rule of law. We deserve a full accounting of the illegal and evil actions done in our name. The American people should have all of the facts on torture - and this is why I join the hundreds of diverse religious and faith-based communities of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture in calling for the Senate Intelligence Committee to release its recently adopted - but still classified - report on CIA interrogations.

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch serves on that committee, and he has a crucial role to play in bringing the facts about our government's involvement in torture to the American people. Urge him to push for making this intelligence transparent. Our very moral legacy depends upon it.

Lou Landry of Garden City is former clerk of the Boise Valley Religious Society of Friends, and Jude Reppell of Boise is current clerk of the group.

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