We didn't torture the Nazis
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Conservatives these days talk about the war on terror being a new kind of war that demands new tactics. They say it's nothing like any war we have ever fought and the terrorists are more vicious than any previous enemy. Really? How about the Nazis? They seemed pretty vicious -- and we never felt the need to torture them.
We won a couple of world wars without ever having to torture anyone. In fact, we treated the German soldiers so well when the war was over some of them wanted to stay (true story). Yet, I recollect us winning that war. How about Tim McVeigh? Wasn't he the "worst of the worst" as the Republicans keep calling our current detainees? Why didn't we torture him? Remember he was thought to have a second accomplice, a John Doe Number Two, who was never caught (this is not the same person as Terry Nichols and the authorities later claimed he never existed). I don't know if there ever was a John Doe Number Two, but shouldn't we have tortured McVeigh to find out just in case?
How about the Ramzi Yousef and Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the two men who were involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings? Why did we just arrest them, try them and lock them up for the rest of their lives when torture, secret detention and Eastern European jails were still an option? God, we were such softies back then.
How about Jeffrey Dahmer? Isn't he the worst of the worst? He ate people. What were we thinking when we let him off the hook by not treating him to a little good old-fashioned American "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment?"
Here's a list of other people certainly worthy of torture:
John Wayne Gacy, the Killer Clown (he raped and killed 33 people, mostly young boys, and buried them under his house). Ted Bundy. Charles Manson. Your local child molester. Someone who raped your daughter. A rapist like Mike Tyson. Someone accused of slicing the heads off of two Americans - OJ Simpson (OJ was never convicted, but neither has anyone we've detained in the war on terror). A traitor like Aldrich Ames who sold out our national secrets and endangered the lives of our secret agents. A man who exposed the identity of a CIA agent and endangered her life and the lives of her contacts, I. Lewis Libby.
We haven't even gotten to dangerous gang members, drug dealers, violent criminals, bank robbers and so many other people richly deserving of torture.
Hey, I got another idea. Why don't we just change the name of the country from the United States of America to just ... Syria? The Syrians know how to keep people in secret prisons, never report them to the Red Cross, torture them and never bring them to court. They're really good at it. There's a thing or two we could learn from them.
Wait a minute, I have an even better idea. You know who knows a lot about torture rooms - Saddam Hussein. He's in our custody right now. That's a valuable resource. We shouldn't just let that go to waste. Let's torture him so he can tell us the best ways to torture other people.
Remember when we used to believe in the American justice system?
Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) says a little torture never hurt anybody because we are trying "to detain and interrogate the worst of the worst." Senator Roberts voted against an amendment to ban "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment." Inhuman treatment? Does that sound like the American way to you?
Vice President Dick Cheney says the detainees are "really bad people" who are getting "better than they deserve." The Washington Post has written an editorial called the "Vice President for Torture." They highlight the energetic efforts of Cheney to stop a bill in the Senate that would outlaw torture. This is the Vice President of the United States of America. How can we argue torture is un-American when our Vice President is lobbying for it?
And then Fox News Channel puts up this doozy of a graphic: "Why the Fuss About Torturing People Who Wants Us Dead?"
Indeed, why all the fuss? The American way of life is such a hassle. The burdensome legal system, giving people rights, trying to act like decent human beings. It can really wear a person down. Let's just scrap the whole thing.
Remember when we used to proudly say the American justice system was the best in the world?
I know the excuse a lot of people will have is that most of these detainees are not American citizens. So true. They're not like us, so let's treat them in sub-human ways. No need to be decent to people who weren't even born in this country. Were the Nazis American citizens? We still managed to treat them humanely and still win -- and eventually even win over the hearts and minds of the German people so they adopted our system of government. Or the system of government we used to have.
By the way, lest you forget, Jose Padilla is still in a secret prison and has never been given any of his constitutional rights - and he is an American citizen. Though his skin is so brown, I don't know if Republicans think that counts.
And my favorite excuse - they weren't wearing the right uniforms. So, we torture people because we didn't like what they were wearing? Talk about a killer fashion statement. I love the idea that we invade a country and when people fight back in whatever clothes they happen to be wearing, we tell them we can torture them because they weren't wearing what we told them they should be wearing when we invaded them.
This administration really knows how take absurdity to a whole new level.
We have to make a decision. Do we want to change the tenor of this country? Do we want to change our principles? Do we want to become a whole new country? It's a democracy. If you keep voting for these Republicans, they can take us in that bold new direction. Maybe we can even amend the constitution, withdraw from all international treaties, and repeal our own anti-torture laws and roll back some of our pesky rights.
Or we can throw out all of these abhorrent politicians who never understood what this country is all about, who don't believe in the American justice system, and who don't believe in the American way of life. We can tell the world that they are an embarrassment to the country, they are not what America stands for, they are unpatriotic and un-American.
These cowards have let al-Qaeda accomplish one of their goals - making us change who we are. They have let us get a little uglier, a little less just, a little less decent and a little less American. And there are people who still applaud these traitors to the American cause. People who are selling out our principles from the inside. Now, I have one question left for you - are you one of them or do you still believe in America?
Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.