In the recent confirmation hearings resulting in the approval of the nomination of Gina Haspel to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, torture got a lot of play.
As the CBS story to which I've linked you above reports, "Her – referred to by many as torture – that was implemented in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks generated widespread criticism and concern, as did her role in the subsequent destruction, in 2005, of 92 videotapes documenting some of the interrogations."
It's clear that under the Bush-Cheney administration, some prisoners were tortured so that they would reveal information. Torture is an appalling technique that denies the very humanity of its victims. Under no circumstance should the U.S. use it.
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture has been making that point for years now. You can look around on its website to see how it has tried to keep the issue of torture on the front burner.
But while you're there, I hope that you'll note that Torture Awareness Month is coming in June. This provides an opportunity for congregations from many faith traditions to do programming and other actions to call attention to the need to ban torture forever as an element of U.S. policy.
Haspel now has promised that under her watch the C.I.A. won't use torture. Torture Awareness Month is a chance to tell her that people will do everything possible to hold her to her no-torture promise. The page to which I've linked you in the previous paragraph has ideas for how to do that.
As the awareness month happens, it wouldn't hurt to remember the words spoken right after Haspel's approval by the Rev. Ron Stief, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture:
"In a new low, the U.S. Senate today confirmed a known torturer to a Cabinet-level position in the U.S. government. While Ms. Haspel was forced to say that she would never restart the CIA's torture program, she nevertheless refused repeated requests to say that torture is immoral. This is a good day for tyrants, dictators, and others who abuse human rights. This is a bad day for anyone who cares about reining in this president, and others in his administration, who have no moral hesitation around torturing another human being."
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THE MEANING OF ALL THOSE NEW CARDINALS
Pope Francis now has appointed almost half the members of the College of Cardinals, which elects popes. In some ways this is like U.S. presidents appointing judges, especially Supreme Court justices. They can set the direction of the courts (or the church) for a long time after the person who appointed them.
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P.S.: Here's a cool idea. Sign up to take a tour June 10 of the several homes built or rehabbed under the House of Abraham program of Habitat for Humanity in Kansas City. Christian, Jewish and Islamic congregations work together on these homes. I last wrote about this project in a Flatland column here. If I weren't going to be in Cincinnati then for a columnists' conference, I'd join you. But go and take good notes for me.
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ANOTHER P.S.: My latest Flatland column -- about the fascinating Quayle Bible Collection at Baker University -- now is online here.