Speaking Truth to Torturers | Harper's Magazine

Sign in to access Harper’s Magazine

Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?

  1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
  2. Select Email/Password Information.
  3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.

Locked out of your account? Get help here.

Subscribers can find additional help here.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!

Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access
Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
[No Comment]

Speaking Truth to Torturers

Adjust

”I don’t think it, I know it”
Each time he is confronted with evidence of his own policies condoning torture, President Bush responds with the same phrase: “We do not torture.” It is a lie. A brazen lie. The American public now recognizes this (see next item). But in the etiquette of American politics, no one is prepared to say that the Emperor is wearing no clothes.

But now President Jimmy Carter speaks Truth to Power.

Asked by the CNN news channel whether he thought the Bush administration had tortured suspects, Mr Carter said: “I don’t think it, I know it, certainly.” Confronted with Mr Bush’s public denial last week that the US had ever tortured detainees, Mr Carter replied: “That’s not an accurate statement if you use the international norms of torture as has always been honoured, certainly in the last 60 years, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated.”

Last week, the New York Times obtained memos written by the US justice department in 2005. These argued that techniques such as simulated drowning, head-slapping and keeping detainees in freezing temperatures did not constitute torture and could therefore be used. But Mr Carter, 84, said: “You can make your own definition of human rights and say, ‘we don’t violate them’. And you can make your own definition of torture and say ‘we don’t violate it’.

“The president is self-defining what we have done and authorised in the torture of prisoners.”

Poll: Americans Agree, Bush is Lying About Torture
A Rasmussen poll shows that 42% of Americans believe that Bush’s assurances that America does not use torture techniques are false. 30% believe that Bush is speaking the truth. 28% are not sure.

Among the other conclusions, 27% state their view that America should feel free to torture those in captivity. This number is striking: it is almost exactly the same fraction of the American public which now expresses confidence in Bush’s performance of his job as president. And if those numbers really were to line up, we’d find a curious process of self-selection. The morally blind prefer to be led by a person who is morally blind.

Reading this poll, I was reminded by a passage of Scripture, Proverbs 29:18:

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Modern Biblical scholarship tells us that the language of the King James Bible is a bit off the mark; the original should be rendered, perhaps a bit less poetically, as

Where there is no revelation the people cast off restraint. But blessed is he who keeps the law.

The proposition is being demonstrated.

Mighty Duck
Stephen Colbert brilliantly summarizes the Bush Administration’s torture policies. Today’s must-see video.

More from

More