May 3, 2009
The law enforcement officer responsible for the county jail condones torture
It’s a little scary when the second ranking law enforcement officer in Livingston County - who also runs the county jail - defends and makes excuses for torture, but that is exactly what Livingston County Undersheriff Mike Murphy is trying to do in a disgusting letter to the editor in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus on Sunday.
Not surprisingly, Murphy is the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party. In his disgusting letter he never points that fact out, and the editor had to do that for him. The letter is filled with misinformation, lies and exaggerations from the very first sentence.
He claims, “It has been a little over 100 days since President Barack Obama has taken office, and if it's any indication of what lies ahead for the next four years, America could be in dire straits.” Apparently, Sheriff Murphy has been asleep for the last eight years, and he is not aware of the recession former President Bush plunged the country into and the budget surplus he turned into a deficit. President Obama’s first 100 days have been spent cleaning up the mess left him.
He then launched into his standard rightwing talking points: “I could care less what a person's issue is, whether it's moving the economy toward socialism, placing limits on First Amendment rights by regulating free speech on the airwaves and on the Internet, or if it's trampling states' rights by trumping all their laws on abortion restrictions.” The socialism crack is the hottest GOP talking point, the First Amendment talking point must - I guess - be about the rightwing paranoia about the Fairness Doctrine, but I have no idea what he is talking about on abortion rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has been pretty clear on abortion.
But his real misguided wrath is reserved for national security and defending torture.
“According to The Weekly Standard, Obama has released classified intelligence to our enemies regarding the amount of coercive interrogation tactics the United States is willing to use. Such information in the hands of terrorists allows them to train for the watered-down tactics should any of their operatives be apprehended by American forces, thus making intelligence-gathering much less effective.”
There’s a great unbiased source. Coercive interrogation tactics is a nice, clean name for torture, and it has never made us safe and puts our troops in danger. The President has the right to classify and declassify information. Bush used the process to hide information. Nothing in the documents was new information that wasn’t already public knowledge.
Right-wingers claim that if you don’t condone torture you are a traitor and you are smearing the military. Nothing could be farther from the truth. After 20 years in the military, I learned hat crap rolls down hill, and the results of Abu Ghraib proved that.
Nine soldiers were convicted of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Former Cpl. Charles Graner Jr. received the longest sentence — 10 years in prison. Lynndie England, a 23-year-old reservist photographed giving a thumbs-up in front of naked prisoners, is served three years behind bars. You don’t do 10 years in prison for making prisoners uncomfortable. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is not much different from a civilian court. The people who really should be behind bars are the ones who ordered the torture. Torture not only went on at Abu Ghraib, but in Guantanamo Bay as well. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was water boarded 183 times at Gitmo. That’s just what we know about. If it worked so well, they why did we do it 183 times?
Guys like Sheriff Murphy will claim that water boarding is not torture. Not true. We prosecuted Japanese soldiers for war crimes for doing it after World War II, as well as U.S. soldiers who did it in Vietnam.
“He just doesn't understand that our enemies laugh and support such actions as banning enhanced interrogation techniques. Of course, why wouldn't they? Terrorists see this as weakness, not as a means to be liked by the world. Besides, this is not a popularity contest; it is about keeping people safe. Obama is dangerous, and he's wagering your safety and the safety of your family in an effort to make America nicer toward our enemies. My question is simple: Traitor, treason or just plain stupid?”
I would ask the same of Sheriff Murphy, “Traitor, treason or just plain stupid?” I would say the latter.
The U.S. once had - before Bush - a worldwide reputation for promoting human rights. It’s kind of hard to take the high road when you torture the most vulnerable. It’s even worse when you consider most people in Gitmo are not guilty of anything.
George Washington set the tone for our stance on how we treat prisoners, and people like Bush and Sheriff Murphy should not trash that. Despite atrocities committed by the British, General Washington refused to stoop to their level.
“Not only your Officers, and Soldiers have been treated with a Tenderness due to Fellow Citizens, & Brethren; but even those execrable Parricides [traitors] whose Counsels & Aid have deluged their Country with Blood, have been protected from the Fury of a justly enraged People,” he said.
The Geneva Convention is not quaint or outdated, it keeps our troops safe. I don’t care what terrorists or the enemy does to our prisoners, it does not justify torture on our part. Two wrongs do not make a right. Our greatest source of information in the Cold War that was fought for almost 50 years - primarily with intelligence - was from defectors, not torture. We want people coming to our side, and I don’t see how we can do that if they are afraid of being tortured.
The simple fact is you do not get reliable information from torture, and you will get what you want to hear to make it stop.