(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
I am a discontent and distressed taxpayer! “Disgruntled” is a word that might describe my deep dissatisfaction with how my tax dollars are spent. Yet, on April 15, 2009, typically thought of as “Tax Day,” I felt no need to join my fellow citizens in protest. I did not attend a “Tea Party”. I too believe, in this country, “taxation without representation” is a problem. One only need ponder the profits of lobbyists to understand the premise. Corporate supplicants amass a 22,000 percent rate of return on their investments. The average American is happy to realize a two-digit increase. Nonetheless, as much as I too may argue the point, assessments are paid without accountability, what concerns me more is my duty dollars did not support what I think ethical projects.
Had outrage for criminal intent and actions been voiced, I too might have rallied round bays and buildings with buckets of brewed leaves in hand. Yet, it seemed amongst the tea teetotalers, no one was incensed by the illegal, and what I believe to be immoral practices.
The “Teatime” participants I heard did not mention the myriad of misery Americans inflicted on adversaries. Fury for the previous Administration’s torturous policies did not appear in the papers, or, at least, I did not read these statements. Talk of the recently released memorandums (pdf) did not evoke much discussion. The current crop of “grassroots” demonstrators spoke of how the Obama budget might burden their personal lives. Angry activists vocalized a preference not to pay levees. Few, if any, reflected on the benefits received.
While our grievances may differ, we share a conviction. I too am troubled by what the Obama Administration, which I helped to elect, thinks correct.
However, unlike the anxious Americans who voiced their dissent for levees paid, I am happy to give my tax dollars to the government. For me, funds that help supply public services are vital. I welcome the opportunity to better ensure there will be police, firemen, and women. I take comfort in the knowledge children and adults may use libraries to peruse quality books. I embrace legislation intended to better instruction. In my life the importance of education cannot be understated. Bridges built and maintained, roads paved, traffic signs and signals, functional sanitary sewer systems, and diseases controlled and prevented . . . As a concerned citizen, I am glad I can contribute to these ventures.
I object to what I think unlawful and debauched. I cannot condone interrogations authorized and acted upon, in my name. My angst is exacerbated by the current Administration assertion; these crimes are not punishable by law. Those who tortured only did as was commanded. At the time, the Department of Justice declares, “superiors” stated such harsh techniques were legal.
What I would call cruel and unusual punishment, the prior President, his Vice, and Cabinet thought proper. Each Executive stated these torturous measures were necessary to protect Americans. The people heard proclamations that what “we” did was justified. It was effective. Only months ago, Vice President Dick Cheney explained; “The professionals involved in that [so-called torture] program were very, very cautious, very careful — wouldn’t do anything without making certain it was authorized and that it was legal. . . (I)t’s been a remarkably successful effort. . . . I think those who allege that we’ve been involved in torture, or that somehow we violated the Constitution or laws with the terrorist surveillance program, simply don’t know what they’re talking about.” (Memos aside. Please peruse Torture Memorandums. )
Dick Cheney and his compatriots seem to distinguish between citizens of this country and those who might be identified as “foreigners.” To further elucidate the spokesperson for the Bush White House stated; “These are not American citizens. They are not subject, nor do they have the same rights that an American citizen does vis-à-vis the government.”
The newer Administration may concur; civil rights afforded to our countrymen may not be offered to individuals classified as combatants. While I disagree with that contention, I do believe as the Obama White House does. International Law states, all living creatures have an inalienable right to be treated humanely.
Thankfully, President Obama and his Cabinet condemn tortuous practices. Yet, the current Administration announced there is no need to prosecute. Mister Obama affirmed, “(A)t a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”
I must ask; does this declaration ensure history will be repeated? Individuals such as I accept that tribunals will not transform what was. Punishment may not convince those who engaged in criminal behaviors to change. I seek no retribution. Yet, I do think there is a need to prosecute the culpable. Humanitarian principles lead taxpayers such as I to declare, torture, by any definition cannot be tolerated. As a society, we have seen how people are easily numbed by what peers think, say, and do. Studies show the prevalence of video violence has an influence on what we later think is acceptable.
In America, ideally, not ideologically, we understand profound principles unite us. The greater good, the commonweal, take precedence over individualism. As is inscribed in the Preamble of the Constitution “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity do ordain and establish” in this country, we care. Our fellow citizens, and future generations matter to us.
Perhaps this profundity explains why concerned citizens, those who happily contribute to tolls are distressed by the Obama Administration’s declaration, there will be no prosecution.
Persons such as I, who are troubled by torture, understand the past permeates the present and will be the future, if what is worrisome is avoided, accepted, or is left unattended. We, the peaceful people who are proud to pay levees of love, are not comforted by an act of contrition. Nor does the knowledge that President Obama released the memorandums as required by law reassure us.
If intentionally inflicted physical and psychological harm can be characterized as just, and some Conservatives, such as the former Vice President, Dick Cheney, thinks it does, then it makes sense to tax payers who supported the previous President to sanction the acts outlined in recently released memorandums as sound.
Many Conservatives share this sentiment, although not all. Lest we forget former Presidential candidate John McCain’s succinct statement on one the techniques the Bush Administration authorized. “They should know what it [waterboarding] is. It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture.” A man who lives with the memory of being a Prisoner of War, the Arizona Senator emphatically stated, torture is ineffective. That is until Presidential politics altered his position.
Could it be that candidate McCain did as the current President has done, bow to a constituency that does not demand prosecution for what the United States has defined as criminal since its inception.
Opposition to torture was verbalized before the United States became a nation. The Declaration of Independence reminds residents of this territory, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In 1863, in the midst of the brutalities of the Civil War, President Lincoln forbade his forces from acts of cruelty, including torture. After the barbarities of World War II, America led an emergent community of United Nations to adopt in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with its provision that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (Art. 5).”
In 1975, the United States aided in the United Nations adoption of a separate Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment. In 1988 President Reagan signed and in 1994 the United States ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the most comprehensive legally binding international treaty prohibiting the use of torture. The U.N. Convention’s prohibition against torture is absolute, without exceptions.
It was only during the 2006 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (pdf) that the United States turned a blind eye on its history. Perchance the topic of terror, or the threat envisioned as the Twin Towers fell turned Americans against principled actions.
Tax and Terror Codes; Reviled, Renewed, or Rejected?
No one can know with certainty what caused a country or countless within the continent to reject the prescribed canon that is the United States Constitution. Nonetheless, it is clear, the American people do not insist political power be checked. Collectively, cynicism was and is adopted. With that acquisition, the country accepted deplorable directives. The American populace chose to forego authentic representation. Hence, the electorate allowed for the more heinous atrocities that followed. Today, only personal financial concerns bring people to their feet and out onto the streets.
The transition was subtle. Distrustful of government, the public grew to expect the worse. Now we receive it. We pay for torture and are pleased when a President proclaims of “a dark and painful chapter in our history,” this too shall pass. Personally, I fear it will not. My fellow citizens did not address my angst when they dumped dried evergreen shrubs on lawns or in a bay. The President’s decision to disregard what he too called interrogation techniques outlined in the official communication that “undermine our moral authority and do not make us safer” does not bring me joy.
While I did gladly pay my financial assessments, and I did not voice my dissent for torture with tea, I remain a discontent and distressed taxpayer.
References for a dire reality . . .
- Tax Day Is Met With Tea Parties, By Liz Robbins. The New York Times. April 16, 2009
- Investments Can Yield More on K Street, Study Indicates, One Tax Break Brought Companies 22,000% Rate of Return on Lobbying Costs. By Dan Eggen. Washington Post. Sunday, April 12, 2009; A08
- Interrogation Memos Detail Harsh Tactics by the C.I.A., By Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane. The New York Times. April 17, 2009
- President Obama’s Statement on the Memos. Text. The New York Times. April 16, 2009
- Torture Memorandums. U.S.. Department of Justice. Office of Legal Counsel. The New York Times.
- Justice Department Releases Bush Administration Torture Memos. Bradbury And Bybee Memos Are Released In Response To Long-Running ACLU Lawsuits. American Civil Liberties Union. April 16, 2001
- Where Do Your Tax Dollars Go? – Tax Day 2009. National Priorities Project.
- Income Tax Chart – 2009. National Priorities Project.
- War Resisters League.
- Mad as Hell at Teatime, By Eugene Robinson. Washington Post. Friday, April 17, 2009
- What Distracts Us from Impeachment? By David Swanson. The Humanist. November/December 2007
- Declaration of Independence. Indiana Law.
- Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment. Adopted by General Assembly resolution 3452 (XXX) of 9 December 1975. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
- United Nations Convention Against Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. United Nations. 1994
- Law School Past Shapes Obama’s View On Justices, By Nina Totenberg. All Things Considered. National Public Radio. October 30, 2008
- Transcript: Cheney Defends Hard Line Tactics, Jonathan Karl Interview. ABC News. December 16, 2008
- From Universal Prohibition to Universal Eradication of Torture: Developments of International Law Standards. By the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Harvard Human Rights Journal / Vol. 14. Spring 2001
- Cheney defends war on terror’s morality. Office ‘consequential’ because Bush wanted it. By Jon Ward. The Washington Times. December 18, 2008
- Peer pressure pushes people to go green. MarketPlace. January 6, 2009
- The Influence of Media Violence on Youth. By Craig A. Anderson, Leonard Berkowitz, Edward Donnerstein, L. Rowell Huesmann, James D. Johnson, Daniel Linz, Neil M. Malamuth, and Ellen Wartella. Psychological Science in the Public Interest. Volume. 4, NO. 3, December 2003
- Obama Releases Torture Memos, Vows Not to Prosecute, By David Kravets. Wired. April 16, 2009
- Obama: Memos’ Release Required By Law. CBS News. April 16, 2009