Published on Tuesday, November 15, 2005 by the Miami Herald
Torture -- Spare Me The Tough Talk
by Molly Ivins
I can't get over this feeling of unreality, that I am actually sitting here writing about our country having a gulag of secret prisons in which it tortures people. I have loved America all my life, even though I have often disagreed with the government. But this seems to me so preposterous, so monstrous.
Maybe I should try to get a grip -- after all, it's just this one administration that I had more cause than most to realize was full of inadequate people going in. And even at that, it seems to be mostly Vice President Cheney. And after all, we were badly frightened by 9/11, which was a horrible event. ''Only'' nine senators voted against the prohibition of ''cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under custody or control the United States.'' Nine out of 100. Should we be proud? Should we cry?
''We do not torture,'' said our inarticulate president, straining through emphasis and repetition to erase the obvious.
A string of prisons in Eastern Europe in which suspects are held and tortured indefinitely, without trial, without lawyers, without the right to confront their accusers, without knowing the evidence or the charges against them, if any. Forever. It's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Another secret prison in the midst of a military camp on an island run by an infamous dictator. Prisoner without a name, cell without a number.
Who are we? What have we become? The shining city on a hill, the beacon and bastion of refuge and freedom, a country born amid the most magnificent ideals of freedom and justice, the greatest political heritage ever given to any people anywhere.
I am baffled by these ''arguments'': But we're talking about really awful people, cries the harassed press secretary. People like X and Y and Z (after a time, one forgets all the names of the No. 2's after bin Laden we have captured). The SS and the Gestapo and the NKVD weren't all that nice, either.
Then I hear the familiar tinniness of the fake machismo I know so well from George W. Bush and all the other frat boys who never went to Vietnam and never got over the guilt.
''Sometimes you gotta play rough,'' said Dick Cheney. No kidding? Why don't you tell that to John McCain?
I have known George W. Bush since we were both in high school -- we have dozens of mutual friends. I have written two books about him and so have interviewed many dozens more who know him well in one way or another. Spare me the tough talk. He didn't play football -- he was a cheerleader. ''He is really competitive,'' said one friend. ``You wouldn't believe how tough he is on a tennis court!''
If you are dead to all sense of morality, let us still reason together on the famous American common ground of practicality. Torture does not work. It is not productive. It does not yield important, timely information. That is in the movies. This is reality.
Why did we bother to beat the Soviet Union if we were just going to become it? Shame. Shame. Shame.
© 2005 Miami Herald