I just came across an interesting op-ed titled Saying No to Torture: A Gallery of US Heroes at Truthout. The op-ed was was written by Rebecca Gordon, the author of Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States (Oxford University Press). She teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. In her op-ed, Gordon wrote about six “heroes” who refused to torture people or who risked their careers in order to help inform the people of this country about what agents of our government were doing to detainees in their custody: Sergeant Joseph M. Darby, Major General Antonio M. Taguba, General Counsel to the Navy Alberto J. Mora, John Kiriakou, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch, and an unnamed Navy nurse. Gordon said that the nurse’s “identity is being withheld on the advice of his lawyers, because he still faces legal sanctions for his action.”
Here’s how Gordon begins her op-ed:
Why was it again that, as President Obama said, “we tortured some folks” after the 9/11 attacks? Oh, right, because we were terrified. Because everyone knows that being afraid gives you moral license to do whatever you need to do to keep yourself safe. That’s why we don’t shame or punish those who were too scared to imagine doing anything else. We honor and revere them.
Back in August 2014, Obama explained the urge of the top figures in the Bush administration to torture “some folks” this way: “I understand why it happened. I think it’s important, when we look back, to recall how afraid people were when the twin towers fell.” So naturally, in those panicked days, the people in charge had little choice but to order the waterboarding, wall-slamming, and rectal rehydration of whatever possible terrorists(and innocents) the CIA got their hands on. That’s what fear drives you to do and don’t forget, at the time even some mainstream liberal columnists were calling for torture. And whatever you do, don’t forget as well that they were so, so afraid. That’s why, says the president, “It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious,” too quick to judge the people in the Bush administration, the CIA, and even the U.S. military who planned, implemented, and justified torture.
Gordon noted that President “Obama insisted in 2009, and again at the end of 2014,” that “no one should be prosecuted for torture, because everyone was scared.”
Yet, while so many Americans were so afraid, there were individuals who had the courage of their consciences…who dared speak up or tried to do something to stop the torture of detainees. Gordon said that John Kiriakou and the unnamed Navy nurse “directly refused” to practice torture. Others risked their reputations and careers in order to help make the people of this country aware of what our government was doing.
Gordon on the “unnamed Navy nurse”:
The nurse’s attorney told NPR’s “All Things Considered”:
“He volunteered to go out to Guantánamo initially and then after he observed the way the practices were performed and he saw the ways in which the detainees were forcibly extracted from their cells and placed in five-point restraint chairs, and how they were fed with a tube through the nose into their stomach, and that the kinds of things that nurses would do — according to their professional responsibilities — those things were not done, he felt he could no longer participate in it.”
As a result of his refusal, the Navy sent him back to the States and threatened him with court martial and prison. That threat has been taken off the table, but the 18-year Navy veteran still faces possible involuntary discharge, and with it the loss of his pension, health care, and education benefits under the post-9/11 G.I. Bill. In spite of the risks, he stepped away.
A GALLERY OF US HEROES
Click here to read Saying No to Torture: A Gallery of US Heroes.