A Powerful Reminder About True American Values

The Washington Post published excerpts from a speech given by Alberto Mora, a retired Navy general who recently received a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. The speech offers a powerful reminder of what we risk as a nation when we tolerate governmental abuses in silence.

It is astonishing to me, still, that I should be here today addressing the issue of American cruelty — or that anyone would ever have to. Our forefathers, who permanently defined our civic values, drafted our Constitution inspired by the belief that law could not create but only recognize certain inalienable rights granted by God — to every person, not just citizens, and not just here but everywhere. Those rights form a shield that protects core human dignity.

Despite this, there was abuse. Not all were mistreated, but some were. For those mistreated, history will ultimately judge what the precise quantum of abuse inflicted was — whether it was torture or some lesser cruelty — and whether it resulted from official commission or omission, or occurred despite every reasonable effort to prevent the abuse. Whatever the ultimate historical judgment, it is established fact that documents justifying and authorizing the abusive treatment of detainees during interrogation were approved and distributed. These authorizations rested on three beliefs: that no law prohibited the application of cruelty; that no law should be adopted that would do so; and that our government could choose to apply the cruelty — or not — as a matter of policy depending on the dictates of perceived military necessity.

Please read the rest his remarks. What we do in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, secret prisons in Europe and in other dark places not yet discovered may not be in the news as often as it should, but it matters: for what it says about the people we are today, and will be in the future.

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  • Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and a few other NGOs, have designated June Torture Awareness Month. I’ve created a blogroll you can join if you’re interested. You can find it here. The idea is that everyone is linked to from the blogroll, and in exchange, you discuss torture (as you already do), and link to the Torture Awareness site to help support the NGOs.

    There’s a lot of bloggers concerned about human rights abuse in the War on Terror. If we coordinate, we can show our support and help Amnesty and HRW make Torture Awareness Month a success.

  • ‘True’ American values are being submerged in a culture of government by the Military-Industrial complex Eisenhower warnewd about all those years ago.

    The occasional criminal brutality of American soldiers and marines and other service personnel is but a manifestation of the mindset that prevails among the top leaders who devise and engage in ‘pre-emptive aggressor-style wars’ which are themselves examples of illegal brutality.

    As a WW II combat veteran, I am ashamed of the conduct of the apparently guilty murderers among our marines, and I am even more ashamed of a leadership from the very top on down which breeds this type of conduct.

    There is a hell of a difference in illegally incarcerating groups of people (they..citizens of Japanese descent…. were, after all, later compensated to some extent), and invading innocent civilians’ homes and murdering them.

    And this is not to suggest that such incarceration was either really necessary or of no import.

    There seems to be a concerted effort afoot to try to compare conditions, objectives, leadership, of this mess in Iraq with the war fought to eliminate Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo.

    There is no comparison.

    Craig Davie

  • Interesting thoughts, Craig. One of the useful tricks the conservatives who support the military have used is equate criticism of the leaders of this illegal war with criticism of the troops.

    While I do condemn the actions of the few soliders who have been involved in unbelievably inhumane actions, Mora makes it clear that the leadership is responsible.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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