Sunday, September 24, 2006

"The World Is Beginning To Doubt" ...BEGINNING??

Where have you been, Colin?

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Colin Powell is late.

Late by weeks, late by months. Truth to tell, late by years.

"The world," he wrote in a letter to Sen. John McCain last week, "is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism."

The eyes goggle at the word, neon obvious in its understatement. Beginning to doubt? "Beginning"?

Au contraire. Surely the world began to doubt when we barreled unilaterally into Iraq, crying "WMD! WMD!" Surely, the world began to doubt when, finding no WMD, we declared that not finding WMD didn't matter. Surely, the world began to doubt when it read headlines of our soldiers committing acts of torture at Abu Ghraib. Surely, the world began to doubt when news broke of the U.S. sending alleged terrorists to countries where they could be tortured by interrogators. Surely, the world began to doubt when Dick Cheney lobbied to exempt the CIA from rules prohibiting torture. Surely, the world has doubted for a long time now.

Powell's letter was meant as a show of support for a group of dissident GOP senators on the Armed Services Committee — McCain, John Warner, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins — who joined Democrats in rebuffing a White House legislative attempt to reinterpret Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

The White House wanted to allow the use of torture in the interrogation of supposed terrorists, including a technique that simulates drowning. President Bush also wants to be able to try alleged terrorists without allowing them to see, much less rebut, the evidence against them — the very definition of a kangaroo court.

It's a mark of how far we have fallen since Sept. 11, 2001, that these things are even being discussed, much less, seriously. So, belated as it is, Powell's evocation of morality also feels, paradoxically, like the timeliest of reminders for a nation that has so obviously forgotten who and what it is supposed to be.

Before Sept. 11, this country whose moral authority much of the world is "beginning to doubt" was a nation whose moral authority inspired much of the world. Imperfect and even hypocritical as we often were, we were in many ways the world's moral policeman, the nation that held other nations accountable on issues of human rights. [...]

This, I think, is the line in the sand drawn by four GOP senators and the former secretary of state. A line that says, finally — beyond all politics and partisanship and manipulation and fear — enough.

I don't mean to minimize the threat terrorist fanatics pose to your life and mine. But vital as it is that our lives be protected, there are things that matter more. Meaning the essential character of our nation.

Experts say torture is an unreliable tool for interrogation; it often produces false confessions. But even if that were not the case, even if we had to choose between saving Americans and preserving America, it should be an easy call.

Kill me before you kill my country.

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