This report is important to the soul of our nation. Torture breaks the bodies and minds of its victims. It also breaks the souls of those who do the torturing and damages the soul of the nation that enables and justifies it. As we saw in the photographs from Abu Ghraib, they (the torturers) may even come to delight in the pain and humiliation they are inflicting upon people rendered helpless.
The New York Times editorial put the report into context for our past, present, and future this way:
The report’s appearance all these years later is a reminder of the lost opportunity for a full accounting in 2009 when President Obama chose not to support a national commission to investigate the post-9/11 detention and interrogation programs. At that time, Mr. Obama said he wanted to “look forward, not backward.” But identifying past mistakes so they can be avoided is central to looking forward.
My only complaint with the editorial’s insight is its word “mistakes.” The deliberate policies and acts of torture are not “past mistakes” but crimes and sins for which there has been no confession, no repentance, and no justice.
There are some who favor torture simply because they hate and in their minds have conceived our enemies as being not human so that inhuman treatment of them is supposedly justified and may even be glorified and enjoyed. To such thinking it may not even matter whether the victims are guilty or innocent because they have been identified and dehumanized as members of a group that is “not us.” Others say that sometimes torture is justified because information is needed to serve a “greater good.” I have responded already to this greater-good notion in a blog post called, “Does Torture Work? It Doesn’t Matter.”
I hope President Obama will be moved to see beyond self-serving pragmatism and take action to end decisively our still murky policies regarding torture as an option.