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.