No Longer Silent

by dday

It's despairing to close a year where Iraq still rages, telecoms are poised to receive immunity for lawbreaking, George Bush explicitly states that Congress doesn't exist, material evidence implicating the CIA in torture is destroyed without batting an eyelash, Democrats act like they're powerless to do anything about it, and official Washington considers the real problem is that politicians disagree with each other.

But I try to remain optimistic about the future of the country, and though it's at times damn near impossible, people like Andrew Williams make it easier. He was a JAG officer in the Naval Reserve who resigned his commission because the America he believes in doesn't torture.

The final straw for me was listening to General Hartmann, the highest-ranking military lawyer in charge of the military commissions, testify that he refused to say that waterboarding captured U.S. soldiers by Iranian operatives would be torture.

His testimony had just sold all the soldiers and sailors at risk of capture and subsequent torture down the river. Indeed, he would not rule out waterboarding as torture when done by the United States and indeed felt evidence obtained by such methods could be used in future trials.

Thank you, General Hartmann, for finally admitting the United States is now part of a long tradition of torturers going back to the Inquisition.

In the middle ages, the Inquisition called waterboarding “toca” and used it with great success. In colonial times, it was used by the Dutch East India Company during the Amboyna Massacre of 1623.

Waterboarding was used by the Nazi Gestapo and the feared Japanese Kempeitai. In World War II, our grandfathers had the wisdom to convict Japanese Officer Yukio Asano of waterboarding and other torture practices in 1947, giving him 15 years hard labor.

Waterboarding was practiced by the Khmer Rouge at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. Most recently, the U.S. Army court martialed a soldier for the practice in 1968 during the Vietnam conflict.

General Hartmann, following orders was not an excuse for anyone put on trial in Nuremberg, and it will not be an excuse for you or your superiors, either.

Despite the CIA and the administration attempting to cover up the practice by destroying interrogation tapes, in direct violation of a court order, and congressional requests, the truth about torture, illegal spying on Americans and secret renditions is coming out.

The country has largely rejected George Bush and his policies without much help from a media that refuses to intervene on the side of truth and a pundit class that generally contains a range of opinion from David Brooks to Bill Kristol. There are still a lot more fights to wage and a lot more nonsense to refute, but the moral clarity on display from Mr. Williams, the anger, the sense of lost honor, is real and palpable.

Turning away from this moral black hole starts with proud men standing up and refusing to sanction these acts anymore through their silence. I personally think we need our own Truth and Reconciliation Commission so we get it all into the open (some indictments would also be nice).