Home  |   Jihad Watch  |   Horowitz  |   Archive  |   Columnists  |     DHFC  |  Store  |   Contact  |   Links  |   Search Tuesday, March 20, 2018
FrontPageMag Article
Write Comment View Comments Printable Article Email Article
Thanks for Not Torturing By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is shouting “hosanna” and urging its pious supporters to offer up praise and thanksgiving for President Obama’s January 22 executive order halting “torture” by the U.S.

“We give praise to you, O God, for the leadership of the President of the United States and the swiftness with which he signed executive orders to restore the rule of law and end U.S.-sponsored torture,” reads a suggested thanksgiving prayer from a very appreciative NRCAT. “We are grateful for the witness of the religious community and those of other communities in the call for an end to U.S.-sponsored torture.”

From the perspective of Religious Left groups like NRCAT, U.S. detention facilities for suspected terrorists since 9/11 resembled a global version of Dracula’s castle. NRCAT and allied groups never wanted specifically to define “torture,” preferring vague and worst case, nasty assumptions about all aggressive interrogation techniques. NRCAT also assumed that terror suspects should have all the Geneva Convention rights of uniformed prisoners of war, if not the full Miranda rights of U.S. citizens.

Aggressive interrogation has reportedly been used against fewer than 100 terror suspects since 9/11, though NRCAT et al would prefer to imply that the globe is dotted with CIA and U.S. military torture camps. As the Wall Street Journal reported, what some call “torture” has included subjecting terror suspects to stress positions, exposure to cold and sleep deprivation. Other practices of concern have included shouting, loud music, verbal threats, and degrading comments. The much ballyhooed supposed favorite sport of the last administration, water boarding, was apparently employed against all of 3 al Qaeda honchos in the several years after 9/11.

The new Obama policy will ostensibly require all U.S. interrogators to comply with the U.S. Army Field Manual, which seemingly precludes some interrogation practices even permitted by U.S. police departments with crime suspects. But the new policy may leave open loopholes. It sets up a task force to study whether the U.S. Army Field Manual is too restrictive "when employed by departments or agencies outside the military." And the new protections apply only to detainees incarcerated during “armed conflict,” leaving some wondering whether terror suspects apprehended off the battlefield are similarly protected. CIA detention facilities are ordered closed except when “used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis.”

So possibly the new Obama policy is not as enlightened as NRCAT wants to believe. But NRCAT did not want to dampen the spiritual enthusiasm of its recommended anti-torture prayer: “May it be your will, Merciful God, that the prayers, passion, and hard work of an amazing diversity of faith communities, across this country, joined in common purpose, continue to bring about the repair of the world. We pray for the strength to continue our work -- to make sure that U.S.-sponsored torture never happens again.”

Note that NRCAT’s prayers and loud hosannas are aimed exclusively at “U.S.-sponsored torture.” Although the cases are very limited in number, and the controversial interrogation practices do not meet everyone’s conventional definition of torture, NRCAT and the rest of the Religious Left are exclusively interested in perceived crimes by American military and intelligence personnel.

NRCAT is not interested in undisputed and far more pervasive torture practices by such real-life Dracula regimes like North Korea, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan or a host of other unsavory Marxist and Islamist regimes. While NRCAT is interested in protecting legal niceties for al Qaeda suspects, the plight of religious minorities and political dissidents who are physically savaged for years in unspeakable totalitarian prisons does not interest these spiritually enlightened activists in the least.

Among the members of NRCAT are the National Council of Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the Episcopal Church, Pax Christi USA, the Unitarian Universalists, and numerous other liberal-led denominations and religious orders that routinely refuse to criticize repressive Islamist and Marxist regimes. The Islamic Society of North America is also an NRCAT member, of course. At least back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Religious Left elites who govern these bodies did criticize genuine torture and abuse by right wing regimes in Latin America, Apartheid South Africa or even the Shah’s Iran.

But those rightist dictatorships are nearly all gone now. The Religious Left could never bring itself to criticize Marxists. And more recently, multiculturalism and the demands of interfaith dialogue preclude any critique of Islamist governments. So the Religious Left’s interest in human rights is largely confined to condemning the United States and sometimes Israel. Hence the overwhelming emotional need to portray the U.S. since 9-11 as the world’s virtually only recognized practitioner of “torture.” NRCAT et al do not even like to dwell on U.S. renditions of terror suspects to their native countries, because that would require nearly taboo discussions about foreign regimes, mostly Muslim governments, that really do torture.

Keeping the spotlight on America as global villain, NRCAT wants supporters to offer Obama support immediately because “some of those who support the use of torture are already organizing efforts to push back on him politically – to make it seem like the American people disagree with him” about “his fight to end U.S.-sponsored torture.” NRCAT also wants its Religious Left activists to protest Newsweek magazine’s ostensibly “shoddy pro-torture cover story” of January 19.

What did Newsweek report that was so objectionable to NRCAT’s moral sensitivities? It noted that the Army Field Manual is very “restrictive” and “strictly speaking, the interrogator cannot ever threaten bodily harm or even put a prisoner on cold rations until he talks.” And it suggested that Obama may want to “carve out an exception for extreme cases, outlining coercive methods, like sleep deprivation, that could be used on specified detainees” in the case of impending terrorist attacks.

As NRCAT noted, its “work to secure an end to U.S.-sponsored torture is far from over,” with even Newsweek touting such outrageous pro-“torture” arguments. But NRCAT declared that it is still “good to pause, to savor this moment, and to give thanks.”

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

We have implemented a new commenting system. To use it you must login/register with disqus. Registering is simple and can be done while posting this comment itself. Please contact gzenone [at] horowitzfreedomcenter.org if you have any difficulties.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Home | Blog | Horowitz | Archives | Columnists | Search | Store | Links | CSPC | Contact | Advertise with Us | Privacy Policy

Copyright©2007 FrontPageMagazine.com