As I See It

Shine a light on torture to stop it

Updated: 2013-12-17T23:52:55Z

By Kendyl Gibbons

Special to The Star

Standing on the side of love is how my church describes our commitment to human dignity and social justice. While our beliefs about God and salvation are diverse, we know that all people must labor together here on earth to create the kind of world that we want our children to have. Whatever works against our mutual understanding and sympathy, our care for the well-being of others and our own ethical self-respect is destructive of love.

Acts of torture tear down sympathy and understanding, destroy the wholeness of other persons and peace among nations, and corrupt the humanity of those who perform them. As people of faith standing on the side of love, we unequivocally reject and condemn torture in any form, for any reason.

Earlier this year, a non-governmental, bipartisan task force completed a two-year investigation into the U.S. government’s treatment of 9/11 detainees, concluding that the United States government engaged in illegal torture.

Based on an examination of publicly available documents and interviews with eyewitnesses, the task force on detainee treatment, convened by the Constitution Project, concluded that people detained by the United States after the attacks were subjected to waterboarding, stress positions, extended sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and prolonged solitary confinement — actions previously condemned as torture and considered illegal by our government when perpetrated by others.

The detailed findings and the high level, bipartisan make-up of the task force ensures that this report is an important source of credible information about the reality of U.S.-sponsored torture and potentially a catalyst for meaningful action.

According to the report: “The events examined in this report are unprecedented in U.S. history. In the course of the nation’s many previous conflicts, there is little doubt that some U.S. personnel committed brutal acts against captives. But there is no evidence there had ever before been the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after September 11, directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.”

The task force found no evidence that the use of torture produced information of significant value.

An even more comprehensive report was adopted by the Senate Intelligence Committee. This report is based on a review of more than six million documents, including classified information — to which the task force on detainee treatment was not privy. An entire year later, the Intelligence Committee report remains classified.

I join people affiliated with hundreds of diverse faith-based groups across Kansas, Missouri and the country who have come together through the National Religious Campaign Against Torture to call on the Senate Intelligence Committee to release its report about U.S.-sponsored torture to the American people. We have both a moral right and a moral obligation to be informed of actions that our government takes in our name. Without this knowledge, democracy is an empty promise.

Nothing sacred can be achieved by torturing our brothers and sisters. We will stand on the side of love, oppose the desecration of the human spirit by torture, and insist on public awareness of our government’s wrongdoing until this unholy practice is eradicated. Holding our nation and its leaders accountable is a necessary first step.

Kendyl Gibbons is the senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City.

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