I want to talk to you today about torture.
There's quite a bit of hullabaloo regarding torture in the news today, and there has been for some time. Any reasonable, liberally-minded individual living in America must be disgusted by images such as those out of Abu Ghraib, or any other vision of torment and inflicted pain.
And I am.
Why, then, can an evangelical, an avowed Christian, and this nation's spiritual and moral leader condone the torture, interrogation, and the privation of human rights that "enemy combatants" endure in our present conflict?
And I think I understand.
It is not the role of the President to be nice. It was not Secretary Rumsfeld's job to be popular. In both cases, the job is to protect and pursue American interests at home and abroad. I say that, knowing full well that right now, not so very far from where I am sitting, individuals could be tortured for information in pursuit of this war.
The problem is that that information may be vital to the national security. And Messrs. Bush, Cheney, et al., and Mme. Rice, believe it to be true.
And I don't have a problem with that.
Al Qaeda will have (has had) no objections, on a moral level, to torturing, maiming, and beheading innocents and journalists, as well as our combatants. It is asked, why should we treat them any better, and as an American citizen, my answer must be, we can't. This isn't that kind of war. For the safety of our children, we must take radical, unprecedented, unfortunate steps.
And I don't have a (big) problem with that.
Are you ready for the turn? Because here it is. The current administration is doing what they think is right and necessary, and they will continue to do so, and it is right that they do.
But I will call, after the end of the administration, for an investigation into the acts of the administration. At the end of the war, I want to know what happened during the war. And those who committed crimes should be brought to justice for them.
As he's walking out of the White House, take all of President Bush's files, and find out who did what. Take them to trial. Let them be held accountable by US law.
Because that's the thing that must make us different from Islamic extremists. And from Communist guerillas. And from every other force for murder and torture in this world. We live under the rule of law - it is for that we fight. I can allow for the use of extreme force in the face of extremism. But I cannot condone its going unpunished.
I see a human intelligence operative in the streets of Moscow. He has a job, and he does it cleanly, and effectively. There's a silencer, a dark alley, an unfound murder, unanswered questions, and American lives are saved. It's vile and reprehensible, but for the state, it must be done.
And on the day that the USSR fell, I see him going to his local police department, or that of the Soviet Union, and turning himself in. I see this in my mind, and I cannot smile. It isn't a good. But it is there, and it is better than the alternative.
This has happened but two times that I know of, that a man guilty of crimes undertaken on behalf of his own nation was willingly and legally punished. Both were honest men; both did what they thought was right; both paid for it with their lives.
But even having escaped judgment in this life, I know that President Bush, in his own heart and mind, will have to square every act of torture, every death he undertook, with his own God. And that may be the greatest punishment that could be devised for a man of conscience.
And that I can ride with.
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