Monday, April 27, 2009

If they did this in my name,

it better have been worth it.

My dad died of emphysema, a death that is often compared to drowning. As the disease slowly destroys the lung tissue, breathing becomes progressively more difficult. The damage to the tissue prevents the lungs from expelling one breath and taking in another. Less and less oxygen is available. Eventually, even those on oxygen become incapable of getting the oxygen their bodies demand. Instinct kicks in: breathe more deeply, breathe more often. But they can't. As they lay there gasping for breath, they know they are dying in that instant, only that instant lasts for hours, days and weeks.

Panic sets in. You can see it in their eyes. Their voices are stilled by disease. Their arms and legs flail as they try to swim to the surface of water that doesn't exist.

The standard treatment for this is liquid morphine, placed under the tongue of the victim. It does not improve breathing; it does not increase oxygen levels. It simply renders the victim unconcious in his final days.

And now I read in great detail how my government, in my name, intentionally subjected other people to this same experience, through waterboarding. In one case, every four hours of every day for a period of 31 days.

I know the arguments, the claims made in support of the approach. I do not accept the argument that this is not torture, for I have seen its equivalent. I have seen the eyes of my father as the most fundamental part of his brain told him he was drowning, despite all evidence to the contrary.

I understand that those subjected to this torture are said to have been guilty, to have possessed knowledge vital to the conduct of a war. That does not lessen my horror. Nor can I, a man who has been thought guilty of many things I have never done, believe that every person subjected to this torture was guilty of any crime or that any crime he may have committed warranted this punishment.

Damn those who justified this in my name, who sat in comfort at desks far removed from the conflict and the reality of torture and contrived legal and moral justifications for this abuse. Damn those who have placed me and my country among the wicked.

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