Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Family Values? Morality?

I've been a bit numb the past few days. The Republicans had their little theater over authorizing torture committed by Americans. The Democrats did nothing. Certain conservatives love to expound on the loss of morality in America. Certain politicians like to throw "family values" in our faces. That usually means Republicans wanting to control your sex life.

Where the hell are these "family values" and "morality" in the authorization the U.S. Senate is about to give to the military to conduct torture?

Paul Rieckhoff is the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He had an excellent op-ed piece in Monday's New York Times:

IN 2002, I attended the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning, Ga. At “the Schoolhouse,” every new Army infantry officer spent six months studying the basics of his craft, including the rules of war.

I remember a seasoned senior officer explaining the importance of the Geneva Conventions. He said, “When an enemy fighter knows he’ll be treated well by United States forces if he is captured, he is more likely to give up.”

A year later on the streets of Baghdad, I saw countless insurgents surrender when faced with the prospect of a hot meal, a pack of cigarettes and air-conditioning. America’s moral integrity was the single most important weapon my platoon had on the streets of Iraq. It saved innumerable lives, encouraged cooperation with our allies and deterred Iraqis from joining the growing insurgency.
If America continues to erode the meaning of the Geneva Conventions, we will cede the ground upon which to prosecute dictators and warlords. We will also become unable to protect our troops if they are perceived as being no more bound by the rule of law than dictators and warlords themselves.

The question facing America is not whether to continue fighting our enemies in Iraq and beyond but how to do it best. My soldiers and I learned the hard way that policy at the point of a gun cannot, by itself, create democracy. The success of America’s fight against terrorism depends more on the strength of its moral integrity than on troop numbers in Iraq or the flexibility of interrogation options.

Several Republican combat veterans, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Senators Lindsay Graham, John McCain and John Warner, have recognized that the president’s stance on Article 3 is a threat to our troops and to our interests. It would be insulting for the president to assume he knows more about war than they do.

But the compromise the president struck with the senators last week leaves the most significant questions unresolved. The veterans must hold their ground — and the White House must recognize that our troops need all the moral authority they can get.

What the hell is happening to America?