Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Torture Is NOT the American Way


Here’s part of letter published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, Dec. 31, 2007.

Get off the high horse on torture

Professor Thomas Steiger’s essay (Sunday, Dec. 23, Page D2) on torture was a ludicrous attempt to equilibrate the actions of our enemies in the Islamic world and our military’s use of “waterboarding” a known terrorist. It would have been humorous were it not so damaging.

It is written to weaken resolve and equalize a truly barbaric enemy who acts to create fear and horror with the necessary methods for gathering information to prevent those horrors. . . .

Is it something to be proud of? No, but climbing on a high horse and spouting manure about the “American way” while denigrating those protecting us is shameful. Professor Steiger displays a contemptible willingness to correlate our intelligence/military’s justifiable actions with the abominations the “enemy” is perpetrating. He also displays an immense void where knowledge of our history is concerned and whether that is intentional and thereby sinful or from a true lack of that knowledge, I fear for those learning from him either way.

Oh, and by the way, I do dare, and yes I believe, you are a “liberal, idealist wimp” as you suggested.

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Here’s my response.

Reader's Forum: Jan. 6, 2008

Founders rejected practicing torture

Thomas Steiger (”Torture in any form is not the American way”, Dec. 22, 2007) illuminates the practice of torture by agents of our government, pointedly and correctly asking: “Where is the outrage?”

Because Michael C. Sherrill (”Get off the high horse on torture,” Dec. 31, 2007) is so quick to name-call and ridicule Steiger’s grasp of history as “dense,” here’s a short lesson for him about how a “truly barbaric enemy” was dealt with at the very beginning of our nation’s history.

The “truly barbaric enemy” of the War of Independence turns out to be the British. One example, at the battle of Drake’s Farm in New Jersey, February 1777, American troops attempted to surrender. They were left on the field, murdered. A Revolutionary War vet reported on the aftermath: “[the British] dashed out their brains with their muskets and ran them through with their bayonets, made them like sieves.”

The Brits, mighty imperial power that they were at the time, sniffed at any outrage expressed over their conduct. However, the good guys, the barely established, hanging-by-our-fingernails Americans, led by directives from Gen. George Washington, took an entirely different course throughout the war. To our everlasting credit and glory, our just-born nation followed what historian David Hackett Fischer calls “The Policy of Humanity.”

Early in the war, after the battle of Princeton, Washington issued this order on the treatment of prisoners: “Treat them with humanity, and Let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British army in their Treatment of our unfortunate brethren.”

Perhaps John Adams best expressed our stance and faith in those perilous times: “… the cruel Murders in cold blood … harrow me beyond Description.” Nevertheless, Adams stood by the policy of humanity stating: “— Piety, Humanity and Honesty are the best Policy. Blasphemy, Cruelty and Villainy have prevailed and may again. But they won’t prevail against America, in this contest, because I find the more of them are employed, the less they succeed.”

This from Washington and Adams, or as Sherrill might have it, just two more “liberal, idealist wimps.”

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