Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Ethical Test of Our Time: How Will We Respond?

There are certain issues that serve as ethical and religious tests for each generation. Torture is our test now, here, in the United States. How we respond to it will reveal a great deal about who we actually are.

Of course our government has sanctioned torture for years now. The sorry existence of the School of the Americas testifies to that. But the torture was clandestine, under the radar, inaccessible to average citizens.
Abu Ghraib changed all that. Now everyone in the country knows that our government tortures (although "torture" now becomes "enhanced interrogation techniques") or outsources torture ("extraordinary rendition"), and this knowledge demands a moral decision from us. Neither a plea of ignorance nor fence-sitting is an option. As individuals and as a society, we're called forth to respond to the test.
One step--a necessary but not sufficient step--is to demand that presidential aspirants respond to these five questions from Human Rights First:

5 Key Questions for Presidential Candidates

1. Do you think it should ever be lawful for American personnel to subject prisoners to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment?

2. President Bush is reportedly going to issue an Executive Order shortly that will lay out the permissible interrogation techniques for CIA intelligence operations. What standards do you believe the Executive Order should adhere to?

3. Do you believe that the United States should engage in the kidnapping and transfer of individuals to the custody of other governments for interrogation? What if there is a substantial risk those prisoners will be tortured?

4. The Military Commissions Act suspends the statutory right to habeas corpus for those battlefield captives detained as enemy combatants. What is your view of this provision?

5. If you were elected President tomorrow, what orders would you give your Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State regarding the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?