The Moral High Ground

I’m going to give you fair warning on this post. I’m not here to discuss writing today, I’m here to discuss morality. Reading about the torture techniques and practices used by my government– a government I once fought for– has got my blood boiling good and hot today. If you come here just for the writing tips, or to watch my slow descent into writing madness, this won’t be for you.

If you’re curious how I feel about my country sliding down the bell curve faster than greased duck shit, by all means continue.

I mean, torture? Really? That’s almost exclusively the purview of movie villains. It’s so god damn out there I expect to be Rick Rolled at any minute reading this report. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive. I was a combat soldier after all. You slap a guy who spits on you. You punch them in the nuts if they resist during a search. You don’t shove your fist up their ass until they have permanent damage done to them. That isn’t us. We aren’t the god damn movie villains. When I was younger I believed we had a certain moral authority. We had a proud position on the top of the hill, and it was our job to help others reach it. They drilled the words ‘hearts and minds’ into us so hard while we were deployed that I still have dreams about my lieutenant saying it. And here we are, almost a decade later, and we find that those efforts to win over the people were undermined the entire time by sadomasochists in positions of authority. Assholes who lied to their superiors time and again to cover up their crimes.

The laundry list of offenses we are guilty of is pretty heinous. Notice I say we and not them. This is a we situation. This is our nation. We allowed this to go on. We allowed ourselves to be scared and cowed, and we didn’t ask questions. Some of us were afraid to, and others were proud of the things being done in our name. Some did ask questions, and were ignored. Some didn’t want to bother, and some don’t see it as their problem. It is. When our spooks are freezing people to death and hanging them in sensory deprivation rooms for weeks at a time, we are to blame. When agents of the CIA capture the wrong man, and torture him for years, we are at fault. That’s only the stuff they released. Over 9,000 additional documents were still too classified (or embarrassing) for us to be allowed to see. We kept out eyes closed to the world around us. We concerned ourselves more with what sort of beef jerky they would make out of Lady Ga Ga’s dress, and which NFL player was fighting dogs than the morality of our, “War on Terror.” (The media is as much to blame for this crap as the government) While we allowed our government to run both themselves and other countries into the ground, we stood by and shook our heads. We grumbled, and we demanded change, but we settled for more of the same.

You want to debate about the morality of torturing people? Okay, let’s dance. Here’s the eighth amendment to the US Constitution:

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

Not good enough? Here’s a link to the UN Convention on dealing with torture, a convention that was masterminded by the US.

It defines torture as:

“Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

It also says:

“The Convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture within their borders, and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.”


“Article 2 of the convention prohibits torture, and requires parties to take effective measures to prevent it in any territory under its jurisdiction. This prohibition is absolute and non-derogable. “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever””

We made the rules on torture, and we broke them as soon as it became convenient. What the hell is that? You can’t defend it. You’re wrong if you try. Way wrong. “But they flew planes into the WTC” “I fought a war!” No. “But!” No. We aren’t monsters, and we can’t make ourselves into one as soon as we decide it’s ‘for the greater good’. Torture is never for the greater good. There is no excuse for sinking to the level of the people cutting off heads on TV, which is exactly what we have done. We are better than them.

No, I’m afraid we’ve lost the moral high ground. Or maybe it’s better to say that moral high ground is a myth. A childish fantasy. Another tool that the government uses to justify it’s actions. A government that spies on it’s people. A government that arrests whistle blowers, and labels the people who shine a light in it’s dark places traitors. A country with a group of leaders that have allowed torture to go on right under their upturned noses. The same leaders who won’t pursue people who tortured people– as many as 26 of them who were innocent, and probably more in those 9000 reports. Hell, some of these leaders– I’m looking at that slobbering, disgusting war profiteer Cheney– actually defend it. These aren’t the actions of a moral entity, they are the actions of a sociopath. There are rules to war for a reason, and we have broken them. One of my old teammates is in jail for the rest of his life for torturing and killing innocent people. Why aren’t these CIA Agents getting the same treatment?

We wave our flags, and we have pride in our nation. We call it the greatest country in the world. Maybe it is. A qualification like that is hard to justify. I know I care enough about it to have gone to war. (A war I didn’t fully believe in, and still don’t.) People who care about the destiny of this country can’t afford to stand idly by and watch this farce continue. We need to be involved. We need to call out our leadership and their lackeys on the shit they’re doing in our name. We need to stop voting for the clowns that allow this to happen. We need to start making the media accountable for it’s terrible journalism, and speak with our wallets and viewership until they drop the us versus them bullshit. We need to demand a total overhaul of the way our government handles secrets and security. We need to get back to being “We the people,” and stop just being, “We the residents of.”

Don’t let us be the movie villains. If torture, murder, invasions, and thought police are unpalatable to you, then make it known.

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