I don't usually make a point of responding to the talking-head proselytizers in my Sunday paper but your column prompted me to do so.
I'll make this simple. There are NO circumstances under which torture is acceptable. Jack Bauer's "24" makes for great TV but even in a ticking timebomb situation such behavior is inappropriate and illegal. Torture is counter to our moral code, a violation of the Geneva and Hague conventions to which we subscribe and perhaps least understood, but most significantly, counterproductive and ineffective. Nothing else really needs to be said, but if you want more details read on.
So you must wonder, by what authority is this letter writer speaking? Well, as a Lieutenant Colonel and Combat Arms Battalion Commander in the Army I am responsible for the welfare, training, good order, and discipline of my soldiers. I am responsible for everything they do or fail to do. I am also responsible to follow and issue only those orders that are legal, ethical and moral. Torture of another human being is illegal, unethical and immoral, and I would be duty bound to disobey any such order...just as PFC Lynndie England and SPC Charles Graner (and their many counterparts, senior officers and NCOs at Abu Ghraib) should have done...just as any of my soldiers should disobey should I give such an order. We all have the lessons of Nuremburg to rely upon anytime such questions come to mind; "I was just following orders" is never justification for committing crimes against other human beings.
Before deploying to Iraq last year, I explained these things to my troopers. It is difficult to explain to young (practically) kids, with little experience, and poor knowledge of the world...but if you are caring and committed, and repeat yourself often enough they learn and understand. I told them the most important thing they needed to take away from all their preparations was that while it would be terrible to lose one of them or have one of them seriously physically injured, it would be worse to have them come home physically well and mentally broken because they had somehow lost their humanity. Torture destroys our humanity, and any equivocation (feel free to exercise the Kantian absolutist vs utilitarian argument to your heart's content) on the matter is just bullshit...
Strong stuff I must say.
In a similar vein former Governor of Minnesota and former Navy SEAL Jesse Ventura recently went on Larry King Live and had this to say about Dick Cheney.
VENTURA: No, I live in Mexico now, Larry. So I do a lot of reading. I don't watch much TV. This year's reading, I covered Bush's life. I covered Guantanamo and a few other subjects. And I'm very disturbed about it.
I'm bothered over Guantanamo because it seems we have created our own Hanoi Hilton. We can live with that? I have a problem. I will criticize President Obama on this level; it's a good thing I'm not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. I would prosecute the people that did it. I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law.
KING: You were a Navy SEAL.
VENTURA: That's right. I was water boarded, so I know -- at SERE School, Survival Escape Resistance Evasion. It was a required school you had to go to prior to going into the combat zone, which in my era was Vietnam. All of us had to go there. We were all, in essence -- every one of us was water boarded. It is torture.
KING: What was it like?
VENTURA: It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you -- I'll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.
KING: Even though you know it's not going to happen -- even though before it, you know you're not going to drown.
VENTURA: You don't know it. If it's -- if it's done wrong, you certainly could drown. You could swallow your tongue. You could do a whole bunch of stuff. If it's it done wrong or -- it's torture, Larry. It's torture.
KING: A lot of things to go into, Jesse. What do you make of the Cheney/Limbaugh --
VENTURA: I don't have a lot of respect for Dick Cheney. Here's a guy who got five deferments from the Vietnam War. Clearly, he's a coward. He wouldn't go when it was his time to go. And now he is a chicken hawk. Now he is this big tough guy who wants this hardcore policy. And he's the guy that sanctioned all this torture by calling it enhanced interrogation.
KING: Do you think Rush Limbaugh's a better Republican than Colin Powell?
VENTURA: No, not at all. In fact, if you compare the two, let's look at Colin Powell, who's a war hero, who strapped it on for his country, and didn't run and hide.
VENTURA: And then you look at Dick Cheney who ran and hid. I have no respect for Dick Cheney. I have tremendous respect for General Powell.
I think its safe to say that many of the people who have actually and or are actually putting their lives on the line for this country do not support the pro torture crowd.