In a commentary written for CNN.com today, Senator John Kerry, the new chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote that “the use of torture and indefinite detention have not only tarnished our honor but also diminished our security.”
Kerry’s commentary is on the subject of Obama’s executive order signed on Thursday for the “eventual closure of Guantanamo Bay prison and CIA “black site” prisons.”
Kerry says, “In a season of transformational changes, these are among the most meaningful, because they send a powerful message that America’s struggle against terrorism will once against honor some of the most cherished ideals of our republic: respect for the rule of law, individual rights, and America’s moral leadership.”
And he goes on to point out:
In this global counterinsurgency effort against al Qaeda and its allies, too often our means have undercut our efforts by wasting one of our best weapons: the legitimacy that comes from our moral authority.
Torture plays directly into a central tenet of al Qaeda’s recruiting pitch: that everyday Muslims across the world have something to fear from the United States of America.
From Morocco to Malaysia, people regularly hear stories of torture and suicide at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other overseas prisons. The result has been a major blow to our credibility worldwide, particularly where we need it most: in the Muslim world.
Once permitted, torture and lawlessness are not easily contained. Coercive interrogation techniques found their way from high-level terrorists at Guantanamo to low-level detainees at Abu Ghraib.
Years later, images of abuse there remain fixtures across the Arab and Muslim world. And as John McCain has argued, the use of techniques like waterboarding leaves its scars on a democratic society as well.
Torture elicits lies — not just from those experiencing it, but from those who seek to conceal it. After years of Orwellian denials and legalistic parsing, what a relief it was to hear our new attorney general-designee finally acknowledge what we know to be true: that yes, “waterboarding is torture.”
The closing of Guantanamo will not be easy, as Kerry notes but the “desire to do better has always been a core part of America’s greatness” and “last week Barack Obama and his administration wrote a new chapter in that old story.”
Thank goodness for the desire to do better and change that the Obama administration is bringing America. It was so disheartening for so long to know the damage Bush had done. It will take some time to right the wrongs… We’re on the right track now.
Jane Mayer has more in the New Yorker on the executive order to close Guantanamo.