On the Back Page (“Torturing Ourselves,” May 6), Randy Salzman suggested our nation's attitude toward the torture committed under the auspices of the previous administration should simply be to let it go. I must disagree.
Through its actions, the Bush administration gravely diminished our standing among the community of nations — and in the long run, damaged our national security as well. To earn back the trust and respect of our fellow human beings, we must face our failure to live up to our own ideals. Those who ordered torture and who deprived us of rights guaranteed by the Constitution by illegally wiretapping and imprisoning citizens must be held to account for their actions. We must insist that those at the highest level of decision-making in the Bush administration face public scrutiny and suitable consequences for their violations of human and civil rights.
It is altogether appropriate for the president and Congress to conduct a nonpartisan inquiry into these matters, so that we all know what actions have been taken in our name, and so that future administrations will be put on notice that torture, illegal invasion of privacy, secret rendition and disregard of the right of habeas corpus will never again be tolerated by the citizens of this country.
Salzman's editorial is a repugnant response to the state-advocated torture perpetuated by the Bush administration. I am referring to his apologist, let-bygones-be-bygones approach to dealing with criminal activity perpetuated by our government in our name. As if the American people believe that torture is a reliable and effective means of gaining intelligence from terrorists. As if the American people believe torture is right.
Not only is Salzman wrong but he is woefully ignorant of the world as it has been shaped by the United States today. We have not only lost our leadership role in advocating human rights but also arguably made the world a more dangerous place by our knee-jerk and bully like tactics post-9/11. To say that we should just move on and give the perpetrators a pass is irresponsible. The United States does not torture like the barbarian tide we are trying to stem. Alas, we did torture. Thanks to the believers in brute force we are saddled with this sad and ineffective legacy of secret prisons, indefinite imprisonment without trial, kidnapping of foreign citizens playfully referred to as extreme rendition, and more hate leveled at us and rightfully so.
We should not have relied upon the favorite tactic of the Spanish Inquisition as history and science have proven it is unreliable as well as immoral. Salzman's idea to “move past this” is just a small-minded plea to halt the self-reflection that we, as a country, need after eight years of eroding personal freedoms and domestic spying. Didn't this nation at one point consider impeaching Nixon for the same offense?
Salzman's editorial is illogical at best. I can hear him on a police force now: “Why should we investigate murders? After all, the victim is dead? What's the use? Let's concentrate on the robbery occurring now.”
The point to all this self-reflection, “torturing ourselves,” to use his words, is so this will never happen again. Let us make another stand similar to when we upheld and agreed to the Geneva Convention, or when we ratified the Constitution guaranteeing each person their day in court to face their accusers. The same document guaranteed us a right to privacy and against unlawful search and seizure. Are these rights not worth merely reflecting on our past actions? Are they not worth bringing to justice the people who perpetuated these crimes and drug us down to the level of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations? Yes, we should give those leaders a pass so that we might again torture humans.
Self-analysis is so hard. Repercussions are so messy. The truth is so hard to find. Why bother? I'm sorry Mr. Salzman's stomach for self-reflection is so weak. Often pain is necessary for growth. It's our time to grow.