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Obama’s moral compass is askew

In his decision to block the release of photographs showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners, President Obama not only flouts the separation between the executive and the judicial branches, he neatly ignores the moral compass of which he has spoken so highly in the past.

Accountability is the most effective weapon we have in diffusing the desire for retribution anyone might harbor against us. Transparency is the most powerful tool we have in restoring goodwill among friendly nations and fostering tolerance and dialog among those who would be our enemy.

Obama justifies his decision by saying there were only a few individuals involved in the torture and they’ve been dealt with. This is disingenuousness at its most dangerous.

The low-ranking American soldiers brought to task for torture are taking the fall for acting out methods and policies sanctioned, perhaps demanded, at the highest levels of our government. To imply otherwise is to perhaps incite the very anger we seek to avoid.

Holding back the photos is telling the world that when America does wrong and causes the suffering of others, we will make our decisions about correcting those wrongs based on whether or not we will be made to suffer in return.

That is no moral compass; that is a compass of expediency.

No one wants our service men and women to be in any more danger than they already are. No one wants to provide justification for terrorists who might seek retribution on American soil.

But there’s nothing noble in being accountable and transparent only when there’s no risk for being so. True leadership, true courage, is to be accountable and transparent even when one is fearful of reprisal.

The hard fact is that we are at war with an enemy that exacts revenge, and it is almost precisely the nature of war to do so.

Have Americans not also, in the course of our wars, become the very people we fear — a nation that exacts a desired end through the means of vengeful torture?

Is fear of reprisal really going to be our new military strategy? If that is the case, I submit that not showing the photographs will create more distrust of America and inspire more enemies to conspire against us, than showing them will.

Obama said earlier in May that, “Torture erodes the character of a country.” I disagree; rather it is the toleration of torture that erodes a country’s character.

Now that we know about the torture, we must face our truth, our responsibility, and we must also face our fear of reprisal.

We must meet, with character and faith, the consequences of our actions.

Every day, American soldiers must face their fears and take the consequences of their actions. And they do it with the pride and conviction of believing that they are endangering their own lives so that the principles and ideals of their country might live on.

Are we really going to tell those same soldiers that fear of reprisal is their new compass?

I pray for an end to public war and private torture, but more than that, as an essential precursor to the end of violence of any kind, I pray for a beginning of accountability. Full accountability, even when it is scary and potentially dangerous.

Isn’t it possible that, once released, these unseen photographs, purported to be less inflammatory than the ones already seen, will have only the significant impact of showing the world that the U.S. is owning up to what has been done under our flag, and that nothing further is being hidden in the dark?

Despite our domestic troubles, we’ve taken so many positive recent steps on the world stage. To pull back now from transparency — to willfully ignore the true north of our moral compass — shows a lack of commitment to live and lead, and even fight, in the light.

Carl Jung said that those who are tortured in turn become torturers. If 9/11 was our nation’s torture and so we in turn became the torturer, we must stop that downward spiral of degradation – with complete disclosure. Nothing less will restore our integrity.

Posted on May 15th, 2009Comments RSS Feed
4 Responses to Obama’s moral compass is askew
  1. John W. Perkins
    May 15, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Well, at least he’s done at least one thing right for this nation and our fighting men and women since taking office.

  2. There is nothing positive to be gained by showing the pictures MC.I agree with Obama this time.Also nothing will be solved with trials in the fture for the people who just followed orders and did their jobs in obtaining information.Obama will never put Bush ,Cheney or anyone else on trial and is smart enough to know it will do no good to expose our mistakes or strategies to the world.It is enough of an embarrassment that Pelosi said she know nothing and is accusing the CIA of lying to her when she was at the meetings and knew the torture techniques were taking place.Enough already just move on.Oh for what is is worth I agree with torture techniques in certain circumstances as I believe it will save lives and I don’t worry about these murderes who just want to destroy our people and country.

  3. Hi Mary Catherine,

    Glad you see you are consistent in your views toward the Constituion.

    Two observations: First, the US has a sad history of doing rotten things during wartime, i.e Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus and the internment of Japanese Americans. Second, everyone has feet of clay – it’s easier to run than to govern.

  4. Being held hostage in a Blue State
    May 16, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    The means justify the end


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