Ghosts 1 (2000)
Ghosts 6 (2000)
Ghosts 10 (2000)
We pause today to remember, pray for, and extend thanks to all who have served or are serving in America's Armed Forces.
The rest of us have a Memorial Day Weekend homework assignment. It is to read the following excerpt of remarks given by Alberto J. Mora last week upon receiving a John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award. Mora, you might recall, retired last year as Navy general counsel. Two years before the Abu Ghraib scandal, he penned a memo to officials at the Pentagon expressing concerns that international treaties regarding prisoner treatment and torture were being disregarded. According to the Washington Post, Mora, after receiving the award from Caroline Kennedy, said:
It is astonishing to me, still, that I should be here today addressing the issue of American cruelty -- or that anyone would ever have to. Our forefathers, who permanently defined our civic values, drafted our Constitution inspired by the belief that law could not create but only recognize certain inalienable rights granted by God -- to every person, not just citizens, and not just here but everywhere. Those rights form a shield that protects core human dignity. Because this is so, the Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel punishment. The constitutional jurisprudence of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments outlaws cruel treatment that shocks the conscience. The Geneva Conventions forbid the application of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment to all captives, as do all of the major human rights treaties adopted and ratified by our country during the last century.
Despite this, there was abuse. Not all were mistreated, but some were. For those mistreated, history will ultimately judge what the precise quantum of abuse inflicted was -- whether it was torture or some lesser cruelty -- and whether it resulted from official commission or omission, or occurred despite every reasonable effort to prevent the abuse. Whatever the ultimate historical judgment, it is established fact that documents justifying and authorizing the abusive treatment of detainees during interrogation were approved and distributed. These authorizations rested on three beliefs: that no law prohibited the application of cruelty; that no law should be adopted that would do so; and that our government could choose to apply the cruelty -- or not -- as a matter of policy depending on the dictates of perceived military necessity.
The fact that we adopted this policy demonstrates that this war has tested more than our nation's ability to defend itself. It has tested our response to our fears and the measure of our courage. It has tested our commitment to our most fundamental values and our constitutional principles.
In this war, we have come to a crossroads -- much as we did in the events that led to Korematsu: Will we continue to regard the protection and promotion of human dignity as the essence of our national character and purpose, or will we bargain away human and national dignity in return for an additional possible measure of physical security?
Why should we still care about these issues?
We should care because the issues raised by a policy of cruelty are too fundamental to be left unaddressed, unanswered or ambiguous. We should care because a tolerance of cruelty will corrode our values and our rights and degrade the world in which we live. It will corrupt our heritage, cheapen the valor of the soldiers upon whose past and present sacrifices our freedoms depend, and debase the legacy we will leave to our sons and daughters. We should care because it is intolerable to us that anyone should believe for a second that our nation is tolerant of cruelty. And we should care because each of us knows that this issue has not gone away.