Sep 092009
Authors: M. Alex Stephens

When the United States started using Guantanamo Bay to indefinitely detain individuals without change, and later to torture them, the villains who authorized the malicious program became war criminals. They, and we don’t know quite yet who, spat in the faces of every U.S. citizen by undermining our beliefs with the pathetic,and sadly believable pretense of national security.

Obama needs to take steps, such as criminal investigations, to rectify the sin of his predecessor to show the rest of the world, and especially our own citizenry, that America is still strong enough to tread the path of decency and hold even its own heads of government accountable.

If he fails to do so, if he only “looks ahead,” tacit approval is given to future presidential illegality. Bypassing the Constitution to serve personal agendas might be the least of future civil liberty rape.

Allowing the CIA to torture, both mentally and physically, prisoners of war was flat out wrong. Not only does torture violate the Geneva Conventions, but information gained through torture is notoriously inaccurate.

What would the captured 12-year-old (at the time of his Guantanamo imprisonment) Mohammad Jawad know about current Al-Qaeda operations? Like so many other prisoners of Guantanamo, not a whole lot.

Torturing questionably guilty prisoners violates something more fundamental than law — it defiles our supposedly deeply rooted ethics. Remember those?

Allegedly, ethics are the glue holding our fragile little democracy together. Wthout them, we’d be just as bad as “the terrorists,” right?

What’s with the double standard all of a sudden? America historically criticizes the harsh detention practices of other countries while at the same time conducting our own in an offshore prison.

We’re not doing it on U.S. soil, so according to the former administration, what’s the big deal?

As the supposed beacon of hope, progress and democracy, a magnificent and terrible force unlike any the world has yet seen, I really did expect better from America. Or maybe I’m giving the Stars and Stripes a bit too much credit.

After all, we were the ones who decimated Native American culture, rounded up and interned our own citizens and supported widespread eugenics movements, so a bit of offshore moral-promiscuity would only be a tiny smudge on Uncle Sam’s heavily stained wife-beater. Still, that shouldn’t make it acceptable.

Obama needs to send a message to the world, indeed our own citizens, that the previous administration’s nasty habit of pushing liberty to the back of the proverbial bus was inexcusable and despicable.

The Department of Justice needs to investigate, prosecute and punish. Like a watered-down Nuremberg, those string pullers at the top, the head of the snake, need to be flushed out and tried for their crimes.

While former Vice President Cheney still justifies the policies of torture as necessary to keep our country safe and holds that, in fact, they did a tip-top job of doing so for the past eight years, I find it remarkably difficult to believe anything spewed from his venomous gullet.

Is my logic so flawed as to believe torturing your enemy only vindicates his burning desire to eradicate you?

Even though I’m a raging left-wing “propagandist,” I still bear semblance to a human being — a citizen of America — and I know we should never lower ourselves to the tactics of our enemy no matter how dire the perceived threat is.

If we want to “prevent another 9/11,” as Bush so frequently reiterated, the strategy should not include shaming America with further moral, constitutional and illegal degeneration.

We need to take responsibility by holding our CIA, our President and most especially ourselves accountable for failing to uphold the prized moral scruples that should set us apart from the rest of the world.

M. Alex Stephens is a senior political science major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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