Friday, May 15, 2009

Interrogation or Torture: How far departed are we from the Spanish Inquisition?

The sexy, political hot potato this week is parsing the definitions of interrogation, enhanced interrogation [techniques], and torture. First, let me state that I want my nation to be safe from enemies, foreign or domestic. In many ways, I pray that our Federal Government has in its arsenal a person of singular determination and purpose to protect our nation at any cost as a Jack Bauer in the TV series 24, played by actor Kiefer Sutherland. But I pray the most that our nation still has a soul, the ability to realize the cost of compromised values, and diminished national purpose.

How much longer will it take to quench our righteous anger for the attacks of September 11th? When will those that smeared the line between right and wrong realize that the justification of enhanced interrogation, some methods that are enhanced while others do equate to torture, in order to gather human intelligence have not yielded the results as advertised? Even the Christian Church during the Spanish Inquisition learned that many of their methods produced only the answers that would end the enhanced persuasive questioning or hasten death. This lesson was learned around 500 years ago, but obviously not very well.

I was watching Larry King Live a few nights ago and former Minnesota Governor, Jessie “The Body” Ventura, was a guest. Prior to his Pro Wrestling and Political career, he served his country as a Navy SEAL. He went through the most intensive combat training known in modern warfare. Part of that training covered Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape or SERE Training. I would assume that the “Resistance” segment of the training involves having the trainees experience various forms of torture.

Former Governor and Navy SEAL Jessie Ventura identified waterboarding as one of the things he experienced during this training and classified it as torture. Some of the conversations I’ve been listening to during this debate on what constitutes torture, have tried to sanction the use of waterboarding as a legitimate enhanced interrogation technique because our military pilots and special forces experience it during SERE. We know that waterboarding is torture and the leaders of our military, covert intelligence community and government know this too.

The military personnel most likely to be in a situation where they could fall into enemy hand are put through this training because it is likely they will be tortured and they need to know how best to resist and endure these methods. This justification for enhanced interrogation methods that are torture, just because we train our own military how to cope with torture, is another example of compromised values among a long list of others.

I am in total disagreement with the position of Kevin Roberts in his Op-ed printed in the May 15th edition of the Roanoke Times. We cannot continue to compromise our values on this issue, which Mr. Robert is willing to do. Just like the lessons learned from rooting out heretics during the Spanish Inquisition, the effectiveness of torture to gain information produces less than reliable intelligence and can serve to strengthen the resolve of our enemies. In this way, we are not that far removed from the practices of torture during the Spanish Inquisition. Our methods are just more refined.

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