PBS Now recently interviewed Lt. Col. Stuart Couch on our treatment of detainees and the dangers of the slippery slope of torture. Couch is incredibly honest and open in the interview, and it makes for some compelling viewing.
As Couch Says:
We cannot compromise our respect for the dignity of every human being. And that goes to somebody that is alleged to have committed heinous crimes against citizens of this country. That doesn’t change the immutable characteristic that they’re still a human being, and it’s a slippery slope that in the name of national security we decide to compromise that. If we compromise that, then al-Qaeda has been able to affect much more of an impact on this country than they have by driving a couple of planes into the World Trade Center or crashing one into the Pentagon. Because they’ve torn at the very fabric of who we are as Americans.
I’ve been saying this for a long time: if we sacrifice the rule of law for a false sense of security, then we have cravenly given up our souls to pretend we are safe. Which means we hand Osama Bin Laden the victory he was seeking by our own hands.
As Philippe Sands says in his part of the full show:
The U.S. has a unique position around the world. There is no country that is more closely associated with the rule of law. That has given the United States, for good and for bad, a tremendous moral authority around the world. If the U.S. loses that moral authority, it will become that much more difficult for the United States…to protect itself.
In an era where we have yet to fully own up to what has been done in our name, and where the Obama administration is currently fighting to keep some of the evidence of this misconduct hidden from public scrutiny, there will always be questions about what was done and by whose orders.
It is an ugly truth that whatever has been done will eventually come out, and the damage from those illegal actions will be enormous. But if we try to hold it in and cover it up? That will only allow that damage to fester and speculation to run even more rampant — which means when it does come out much later, things will be far worse.
Behold the America that Dick Cheney wrought by making decisions forged in fear and not in law. No matter how many changes we make in our current policies, the ghosts of illegal decisions past haunt us still.
Much more from ProPublica.