Wednesday, April 17, 2013

All Torture is Local

The standards of any organization come from the top.   If Rupert wanted Newscorp to have high ethical standards, it would have had them.   It didn't and paid the price.   If Penn State wanted high ethical standards, it would have had them.  It didn't, and boys being sexually abused paid the price.

For any nation, the same is true.   Standards come from the top.

Following 911, the United States changed its national standards when it decided torture was ok.
As a 577 page independent nonpartison report found, the problem didn't stem from a rogue soldier or two but from a policy from the top that approved torture.

In his opinion piece in the Washington Post, former ambassador Thomas Pickering writes a single sentence that should make any reporter in any market see an instant story and an instant question that needs to be asked.

Pickering writes:  "By authorizing and permitting torture in response to a global terrorist threat, U.S. leaders committed a grave error that has undermined our values, principles and moral stature; eroded our global influence; and placed our soldiers, diplomats and intelligence officers in even greater jeopardy."

The instant question is for the reporter's local member of Congress and for the reporter's U.S. Senators:  do we need further investigation and more transparency in how the United States utilized torture or not?    What is the member's position on torture?

In a democracy, it's essential not to sanitize violations of international law or to cover up unacceptable behavior with semantics.   As Pickering writes,  "First and foremost, Americans need to confront the truth. Let’s stop resorting to euphemisms and call “enhanced interrogation techniques” — including but not limited to waterboarding — what they actually are: torture. Torturing detainees flies in the face of principles and practices established in the founding of our republic, and it violates U.S. law and international treaties to which we are a party. "

Does your member of Congress favor or oppose torture?   Does your member of Congress favor or oppose transparency?   

Why aren't local news organizations asking those questions of their members of Congress?  All politics is local.  It's the responsibility of the press to hold politicians accountable.   Why aren't news organizations doing that?  

As Pickering says, "Too much information about the abuse of detainees remains hidden from the American people." 

When journalism fails, bad things happen.  Torture is a bad thing. 

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