Any Torture is Un-American

In the harsh winter of 1776, a time of crisis for the American colonies, General George Washington sent written orders to officers in charge of overseeing captured enemy soldiers.  One four-line sentence stands out clearly expressing the belief shared by all the founding fathers, which was that each human being retains dignity before the Creator.  That one short sentence was, “Treat them with humanity.”

The authors and signers of the Constitution were men committed to enlightenment principles, and when they had met in 1776 to declare independence from the imposed injustice of a despotic king, their desire was to establish a new nation devoted to those enlightenment principles.  Disrespect for any human life could have no place in such a noble land.  Consequently, the founding fathers emphatically forbade any use of “cruel and unusual punishment” which had for centuries been the mode of conduct throughout church-dominated Europe.

The “uncouth men” of a “course country” dared to defy the traditions of the self-defined “civilized” motherland, and the American yeoman soldiers were expected to treat even enemy soldiers with respect.  And here was set down a purely American tradition; the enlightened principle that declares the equality of all persons before the powers of Creation.  Such a truly noble perception of each person’s inherent worth in the universe astonished the Bible inspired enemy troopers who were taught to believe that physical domination reflected heaven’s favor.  But the colonies clung to enlightenment and endured—and the enlightenment principles they had used as their standard were raised in triumph and held high for the world to reach out for in wonder, hope and inspiration.

Today, nearly two hundred and thirty years after the nation dedicated to enlightenment and equality was founded, we have witnessed the blatant betrayal of those high principles by those who gained political power in a decidedly undemocratic manner.  Authorization of “enhanced” torture methods were actually set in motion.  The founding fathers must have been pacing the floor in agitation in which Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, George Trent and Condoleezza Rice unashamedly conspired and approved the application of specific torture methods (“enhanced”) for enemy prisoners.  John Ashcroft, an oh-so-devout Christian, perhaps felt some psychic presence, for he is said to have wondered aloud, “Why are we talking about this in the White House?  History will not judge this kindly.”

As a side note let us note here—again—that the War of Independence between the American colonies and Britain was not over officially until 1797: only in that year was the final treaty signed at Tripoli recognizing the American colonies as an independent nation.  Within that document was expressed still another bold declaration, i.e. Article 11 which proclaimed in clear and unmistakable words a major principle of the United States Government.  Here are the powerful and precise words of the nation’s dedication to genuine enlightenment.  “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian  religion.”   The history of Europe was known to all the founding fathers, and the bloody record clearly disclosed that mixing church and state was unacceptable if genuine freedom was to flourish.

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