Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Religious Right Remains Silent on Torture

Remember the Religious Right? They are the people that are striving for a "culture of life." These are the folks that are fighting against abortion and euthanasia. These are the people that regard every single human life as "precious" unless it's on death row. Well now we learn that the Bush administration has been going to extreme lengths to endorse torture and protect the torturers. This would seem like the kind of issue that good Bible believing, God fearing, Jesus loving Christians should be all over. After all, how can you follow Christ and support torture? How can you stay silent on the issue while a President who claims to be one of your brethren leads his "Christian nation" in a practice that is anathema to all you believe? Put differently, how much criminal activity will you tolerate just to keep your guy in office? Where are Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and D. James Kennedy? Silent. Apparently there is no depth to which the Christian Right will not sink, including the silent endorsement of torture.

Why am I harping on the Religious Right? Because more than any other group in American society it is the Religious Right that has claimed the pedestal of moral absolutism. It is the Religious Right that proclaimed election victory on the issue of values and it is the Religious Right that has engaged on character assignation of untold numbers of Americans when the lives of the accused did not measure up to the Religious Right's moral standards. Now we learn that the President Bush, who courted the Religious Right so diligently with his professions of faith and affinity for the Bible and promises to promote their agenda has fought for the right to torture his prisoners. Will the same voices that screamed so loudly when they learned the President Clinton lied about sex speak out when their own President lies about torture? The silence is deafening.

To those who hold no faith in God it is not unreasonable to conclude that the conservative Christians endorse torture.

From the New York Times:

At the urging of the White House, Congressional leaders scrapped a legislative measure last month that would have imposed new restrictions on the use of extreme interrogation measures by American intelligence officers, Congressional officials say. The article continues... Current and former government officials said specific interrogation methods were addressed in a series of still-secret documents, including an August 2002 one by the Justice Department that authorized the C.I.A.'s use of some 20 interrogation practices. The legal opinion was sent to the C.I.A. via the National Security Council at the White House. Among the procedures approved by the document was waterboarding, in which a subject is made to believe he might be drowned.

">Marty Lederman's blog :
According to this very recent ">USA Today poll (taken last week), 59% of respondents said that they would not be willing to have the U.S. government torture known terrorists even if those known terrorists "know details about future terrorist attacks in the U.S." and the government thought such torture was "necessary to combat terrorism"! And when asked whether "you think it is right or wrong for the U.S. government to use [particular techniques] on prisoners suspected of having information about possible terrorist attacks against the United States," respondents answered as follows:

-- Forcing prisoners to remain naked and chained in uncomfortable positions in cold rooms for several hours - WRONG, 79% to 18%

-- Having female interrogators make physical contact with Muslim men during religious observances that prohibit such contact - WRONG, 85% to 12%

-- Threatening to transfer prisoners to a country known for using torture - WRONG, 62% to 35% -- Threatening prisoners with dogs - WRONG, 69% to 29%

-- And as for Waterboarding ("Strapping prisoners on boards and forcing their heads underwater until they think they are drowning") - WRONG 82% to 18%

-- On "[d]epriving prisoners of sleep for several days," 49% of respondents answered RIGHT; 48% WRONG

Human Rights Watch on Torture in the Bush Administration

CNN reported the following from Human Rights Watch:

"When most governments breach international human rights and humanitarian law, they commit a violation," New York-based Human Rights Watch said in its annual report of human rights developments in 60 countries."When a government as dominant and influential as the United States openly defies that law and seeks to justify its defiance, it also undermines the law itself and invites others to do the same."The group urged the administration of President George W. Bush to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate any U.S. officials who participated in, ordered or had command responsibility for torture or mistreatment. It also dismissed the Bush administration's claim that Abu Ghraib prisoner treatment was a problem limited to a few soldiers acting on their own.

If we impeached President Clinton over for lying about sex, when do we do we start proceedings against President Bush?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Bush to America – When it comes to being President, Atheists Need Not Apply

Honest, I wrote this before Andrew Sullivan made his post but to be fair here is a link to Sullivan’s blog.

From the Washington Times:

President Bush said yesterday that he doesn't "see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord," but that he is always mindful to protect the right of others to worship or not worship.

Which is simply another way of saying that anyone who does not share his particular Evangelical views need not participate in our democracy. But wasn’t that really what the Red states have been saying all along?

What makes this whole interview even more amusing (or frightening) is that it took place in the oval office with the
Washington Times – yes that Washington Times, the one owned by Bush family friend and self proclaimed messiah Reverend Moon (read more about the Washinton Times and Moon). To be fair, Moon has made it clear that he is better than Jesus because Jesus failed in his ministry. Take this little gem for the Washington Times’ owner:

"Jesus never achieved a thousandth of what Father has done. In his two years and eight months of public ministry, [Jesus] didn't even establish the national foundation. Now, Father has established a foundation of worldwide power that is unprecedented in history."

The reverend loves to refer to himself in the third person as father.

As for our President, as usual his theology and belief in religious freedom leave us confused but perhaps we can clarify things,“W” is an Evangelical Christian who leads a democracy founded on religious freedom unless you don’t believe in God in which case you may not participate. Further, even though “W” is a devout Christian he sidles up to a guy who says he’s better than God. Got it? Me neither.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Bush’s Honesty: The Real Social Security Crisis – Krugman’s NYT Series Continues

Paul Krugman’s New York Times series on Social Security continues in today's paper (go to the website):

It's the standard Bush administration tactic: invent a fake crisis to bully people into doing what you want. "For the first time in six decades," the memo says, "the Social Security battle is one we can win." One thing I haven't seen pointed out, however, is the extent to which the White House expects the public and the media to believe two contradictory things.

Krugman's series is a must read for anyone tracking the falsehoods being shoveled by the Bush administration on Social Security.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Religious Right, Torture and Integrity

In the August 2002 memo, then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee wrote, "We conclude that torture as defined ... covers only extreme acts."

According to Bybee, U.S. law defined "severe" pain as that "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death."

Asked by Leahy if he agreed with that position at the time, Gonzales answered: "I don't recall today whether or not I was in agreement with all of the analysis. But I don't have a disagreement with the conclusions then reached by the department."

From CNN, January 7, 2005

People of faith look to their religious leaders for guidance on matters of ethics. These leaders teach us that our God has ordained that murder, theft, incest, adultery and a number of other acts are wrong and prohibited. When things happen in our society that are counter to the ethical standards set by our God people of faith have a moral obligation to enter the public square and make our case. This is the responsibility of the faithful in a democracy.

When President Clinton lied under oath about sex with an intern the Religious Right spoke up. When the people of the Sudan were being slaughtered the Religious Right spoke again. On any one of a number of topics people of faith have spoken, often loudly, out of a conviction that our very humanity rests on our ability to stand firmly against our propensity to perform the inhuman.

Not long ago the President of the United States placed in nomination for Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, a man who does not understand that torture is wrong or worse tried to convince his president that torture was right. More disturbingly, the Religious Right, whose voice has been so loud and so strident on any one of a number of issues has been silent on the issue of torture.

Let me say this simply, the self proclaimed leaders of my faith have failed. They have failed because there is something that they covet more than a love of God; political power. Having achieved political power they must preserve it even if preserving it means defending their anointed President when he fails to condemn torture, even if it means going against their God.

All that the United States really has to offer the world is a vision of how things might be. If our actions include torture our vision has no integrity if we believe integrity equals moral consistency. If we engage in torture we cannot offer the world a moral vision. If we engage in torture we have lost and so has the rest of the world.

In the absence of a loud clear voice from the Religious Right I will say it simply, torture is wrong.