Wednesday, November 09, 2005

It has to come from the center...

The current struggle between Congress and the Administration over how detainees in the "war" on terror should be treated has come to center on our "torture policy." The Adminsitration is actually splitting over this and Vice President Cheney is becoming more isolated, with even the President now making comments indicating that he does not favor the use of torture.

It's good that so many members of Congress are following Senator John McCain's lead in attempting to control this aspect of the Adminsitration's treatment of detainees. It has many in the adminstration thinking along these lines...

From the Washington Post (Monday, November 7, 2005)

"The other side of the debate (from Mr. Cheney) are those who believe that unconventional measures -- harsh interrogation tactics, prisoner abuse and the "ghosting" and covert detention of CIA-held prisoners -- have so damaged world support for the U.S.-led counterterrorism campaign that they have hurt the U.S. cause. Also, they argue, these measures have tainted core American values such as human rights and the rule of law.

"The debate in the world has become about whether the U.S. complies with its legal obligations. We need to regain the moral high ground," said one senior administration official familiar with internal deliberations on the issue, adding that Rice believes current policy is "hurting the president's agenda and her agenda."

Torture makes us look bad, is what they are saying. The President's handling of detainees, at least in regard to torturing them, has apparently pricked the conscience of a significant number of Americans and that's making the way the Adminsitration is doing business difficult to sustain. If Congress gets puts a stop to torture of detainees who knows what other aspects of Adminstration policy about how these people are treated will come under scrutiny? And if it comes under Congressional scrutiny it's possible that it will, eventually, come under Congressional oversight and control. So far the President has had few limits placed on his discretion and that is how he wants to keep it.

As welcome as is the news that torture is falling out of favor in the Adminsitration, this is not really a victory, at least not from One Quaker's Take. A new incident of terror, a fresh flurry of propaganda, a new media push, some additional spin could very well turn the fickle public back to favoring torture.

Much better would it be to hear something like this from the Presidential Press Secretary:

"We know that there are many who, out of their fear and frustration, want us to torture people to stop terrorism. But our prayer and worship and meditation is leading many of us in the Administration to re-realize that the use of torture violates the most basic tenets of every spiritual tradition that can be called a "World Religion." We have been led by the Spirit moving in our hearts to realize that we have lost our way and are generating karma, for ourselves and for others, that diminishes the domain of God on Earth, that threatens the security of everyone on the planet and that will outlive the current conflict to ignite many more, for decades to come. Therefore, the President has ordered all armed forces and intelligence agencies under his command to cease any current use of torture and will meet with Congressional leaders today to plot a strategy to get an anti-torture bill to his desk as soon as possible."

Wouldn't that be great?

Of course, if the Administration were to become animated by the Spirit in this way it would not be long until our entire orientation toward the rest of the world--and not just our response to 9/11--would look radically different.

We can pray.

"There is a principle which is pure, placed
in the human mind, which in different places
and ages hath had different names. It is,
however, pure and proceeds from God. It is
deep and inward, confined to no forms of
religion, nor excluded from any, where the
heart stands in perfect sincerity. In
whomsoever this takes root and grows,
of what nation soever, they become brethern
in the best sense of the expression."

John Woolman

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