Recently, my PolicyMic colleague Doug Scott wrote that the harsh interrogation tactics used in Guantanamo Bay against alleged terrorists did not necessarily lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden, and should not be an affirmation or validation of the effectiveness of torture. I agree with Scott, but would like to further his argument and say that this debate on the efficacy of Bush-approved terror tactics should shift our attention and resources to returning the U.S. to the “moral high ground,” which includes the closing of Guantanamo Bay.
The Cuba-based prison is most likely where the battle will be fought over whether forceful interrogation is a necessary evil in our foreign policy. From this perspective, Obama’s failure to close the prison last year will prove even more detrimental to those who had hoped to see the final cell closed at Guantanamo, and with it, the improvement of the moral standing of the U.S.
I think Obama has proved he isn’t weak on defense, as Scott rightly explains; but he has not yet proven that he is strong enough to end his reliance on Bush’s harsh tactics, and more importantly, he has yet to develop a strategy to end the use of torture. In the coming weeks, Obama should take a firm stance on the value of torture to reinforce his standing on the issue; Obama has not significantly weighed in on the issue, and his failure to close Guantanamo is a prime example of his reluctance to rid his administration of torture tactics. It will be easy to condone torture after the death of bin Laden, but there must be a moral argument to counter the dehumanizing methods of extracting information that has been used at Guantanamo and abroad.
As Scott intentionally noted, Obama denounced torture in his very first moment as president, when he said, “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals,” and now he must affirm that the demise of bin Laden was not due to harsh interrogation methods. Moreover, he must re-devote the political will, and funds, to closing Guantanamo. If we are unable to objectify the use of torture and separate the victory of killing bin Laden from the need for a place like Guantanamo to exist, the prison will remain open without a meaningful closing ritual that is needed to end America’s tolerance of torture.
Photo Credit: Don Vansant