Friday, May 13, 2011

American torture dishonored us, but we can honor those who said No.

We have been doubly shamed over the past ten years. Once by our embrace of torture, a second time by our inability to prosecute.

We can't undo our past, but there are some things we can do. Even if, as Tracy Lightcap tells us, "Bush's C-in-C order of 13 November 2001 and the subsequent OLC memos (effectively DOJ opinions) make it virtually impossible to prosecute those involved in acts of torture..." we can still establish a truth commission to document what was done.

Even before a truth commission, however, we can begin with a small step ...

Honoring Those Who Said No to Torture -
Jameel Jaffer is a deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union. Larry Siems is the director of the Freedom to Write program at the PEN American Center

ON January 2004, Spec. Joseph M. Darby, a 24-year-old Army reservist in Iraq, discovered a set of photographs showing other members of his company torturing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. The discovery anguished him, and he struggled over how to respond. “I had the choice between what I knew was morally right, and my loyalty to other soldiers,” he recalled later. “I couldn’t have it both ways.”

So he copied the photographs onto a CD, sealed it in an envelope, and delivered the envelope and an anonymous letter to the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command. Three months later — seven years ago today — the photographs were published. Specialist Darby soon found himself the target of death threats, but he had no regrets. Testifying at a pretrial hearing for a fellow soldier, he said that the abuse “violated everything I personally believed in and all I’d been taught about the rules of war.”

He was not alone. Throughout the military, and throughout the government, brave men and women reported abuse, challenged interrogation directives that permitted abuse, and refused to participate in an interrogation and detention program that they believed to be unwise, unlawful and immoral. The Bush administration’s most senior officials expressly approved the torture of prisoners, but there was dissent in every agency, and at every level.

There are many things the Obama administration could do to repair some of the damage done by the last administration, but among the simplest and most urgent is this: It could recognize and honor the public servants who rejected torture...

It's the very least we should do. We can start at the local level, then the state level, then the federal.

Does anyone know of an "honor role" of those who said No?

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