Tuesday, April 8, 2008

On Equality and Integrity ...and Tenacity

Well, it went OK on Sunday. Everyone was attentive and sympathetic to the cause. Except for one elderly Friend who seemed to misunderstand me, believing that I was somehow arguing against any kind of questioning of suspects for the purpose of obtaining intelligence. I explained to him that I had no objection to humane methods of interrogation, such as those advocated by the FBI and explained in Dr. McCoy's book, A Question of Torture. He did seem a bit skeptical of my arguments, saying something like "Well, all war is dirty," or something to that effect, implying that methods like torture just can't be avoided. And I was talking to a Friend...well, nothing surprises me anymore.

I stayed for meeting for worship and joined Friends again in the social room for coffee afterwards. I was able to get 2 pages of signatures in support of NRCAT's Statement of Conscience.

So far, though, no one has asked to be put on the e-mail list of our local organization, CCRCAT.

A young man spoke with me at length, talking about how torture doesn't produce valid information, etc. I said that we need to write to our senators and representatives and send letters to the editors of the newspapers. He said, "Oh, yeah, sometimes I think I should make a scrapbook of all the letters of written." In other words, he got discouraged. Which is exactly what government officials count on, of course: either directly frustrating the courageous attempts of attorneys (like Candace Gordon) to free detainees, or else just ignoring the opinions of the "liberals" altogether.

Well, I'm with Chuck Fager, who says that US-sponsored torture will be defeated only if Friends go at it with audacity, veracity, and --most of all-- tenacity. I'm in it for the long haul.

On another note, I was able to speak without being too nervous, and I think I've figured out how to connect torture to two of our Testimonies: Equality and Integrity.

Equality: Friends have traditionally stood up for those considered non-persons in our society and have fought to defeat laws that relegate human beings to this status. Certainly the laws of slavery did that to African Americans. The Military Commissions Act follows in the same grand tradition, declaring suspects to be "unlawful enemy combatants," subsequently stripping them of their habeas corpus rights, and allowing them to be imprisoned indefinitely and subjected to "enhanced methods of interrogation." Just look at the figures in the Botero painting. They're bound and thrown into a heap, like old bones or trash. What personhood do they have left? Reminds me of the images of corpses piled high at Auschwitz. If that doesn't offend us as upholders of the Testimony of Equality, I don't know what else would.

Integrity: Euphemisms such as "enhanced interrogation techniques" for torture, "a dunk in the water" for waterboarding, "extraordinary rendition" for kidnapping, and, of course, the Yoo-Bybee memo, declaring that interrogation techniques "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death" before they can be considered torture. (Researchers have clearly shown that "no-touch" psychological techniques of torture --particularly sensory deprivation-- are far more harmful and leave deeper scars on the psyche. ) Not to mention officials at the highest level blaming Abu Ghraib on "a few bad apples," and claiming that CIA interrogation takes place within the bounds of the law. How can Friends who uphold the Testimony of Integrity and truth-telling not be offended by such prevarications?

OK ...I'm pretty worked up again...time to write another letter to the editor!


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