FREE SPEECH ZONE | It Has Been Ten Years…


On August 1, it will be ten years since our government sanctioned torture with the infamous torture memos. Have we lost our way? Based on this sordid anniversary, it seems our moral compass is nowhere to be found. On that day, the Golden Rule was dismissed. The Golden Rule was the basis of how humans treated one another and it was honored by all religions and cultures. Out of that moral sense laws and treaties were born – from the Magna Carta to our Constitution, from the Geneva Conventions and Convention Against Torture to our laws. It seemed written in stone which could not be ignored. But something happened to our moral compass on September 11, 2001 – fear became our compass.

In 2002, the Geneva Conventions were called obsolete by some in our government. In regard to how we treated others, our Constitution and laws were dismissed because of “9/11.” 2002 was not a good year for us. By August 1, 2002, we sank to the level of thinking that torture was necessary and we entered into a regime of torture. That’s how fear worked its way into our lives. We have yet to return to our moral compass.

The questions loom over our heads. Why was torture introduced into our way of life when we had championed the leadership of human rights around the world? Why did we succumb to our fear? Why have we become morally bankrupt yet try to hang on to the “exceptional” myth? And finally, what does this mean for our future; how does torture affect our lives and our children’s lives, our culture?

The torture prisons of Syria have recently been in the news. Our government has been nearly silent on the issue. But we couldn’t say much of anything because of what we did one month after the infamous torture memos were written. Maher Arar was on his way home to Canada when we detained him in New York airport and sent him to Syria to be tortured. Mr. Arar was an innocent man; Canada investigated and it resulted in Canada apologizing to Mr. Arar and giving him reparations for their part in this grave injustice. The United States has yet to apologize and we refuse to give him reparations, as our treaties and laws demand. So our laws and treaties continue to be ignored and the infamous torture memos continue to affect our voice of today. We have lost our moral compass.

The only way our questions will be answered and our moral compass restored is to return to our laws and treaties. To seek justice is not for retribution and punishment but to turn around and return to our compass that gives us a sense of dignity and worth in this world.

It appears that our excuses for not returning to our laws and justice are filled with detrimental pride and political fears. Fear still is our compass. So how do we get back to our compass that was working and gave us a sense of worth? How do we develop trust with our government again, and how do other nations really trust what we have to say? Maybe it is by plain honesty. As long as torture is not dealt with, it remains a tactic for any president to pick up and use; therefore, we as a society should stand up and demand that it can no longer be used in our name. Can Congress step up to look into the matter? Can our Department of Justice take on this important case? Can an independent committee take on the responsibility? Maybe we can begin by apologizing to Mr. Arar and paying reparations for having tortured him.

What does our future hold? What guides and determines our actions? Is it still fear? Or is there a better compass that we can trust which will return us back to the dignity of  our laws and treaties? It is ours to choose and I hope we choose to return to the Constitution and our laws.

Join Tackling Torture at the Top (from WAMM) on August 1 at the Federal Building in Minneapolis from 11:00 to 1:00.
We are asking our government to return to our laws and treaties by seeking accountability of those who have authorized, ordered and/or carried out torture.

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