Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Does IRD's Mark Tooley Support Torture?

It's a fair question.

On 03 February 2009, an article authored by Mark D. Tooley, a so-called "expert" for Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD) and a former 14-year CIA analyst* from, apparently, 1980 to 1994, appeared on IRD's website. Of course Tooley's extended stay with the CIA ended before the recent Bush Administration went off their rocker and openly legitimized torture in violation of the Geneva Agreement.

Many of us know IRD for its attacks on The Episcopal Church (TEC) and other mainline protestant churches. (Note of interest: Roberta Green Ahmanson is no longer a listed IRD Director and a search of their site does not anywhere list the Ahmanson name though a Google Search turns up the relationship in a bevy of places.)

There is so much wrong with Tooley's vile article (the original article which appeared in an on-line right-wing rag) I don't even know where to begin, so perhaps reading it yourself (link above, which I rarely do) will give you a taste of Tooley's seeming understatement of US torture which appears cavalier at best. Given the article appears on IRD's website, and Tooley is an "expert" for the organization, I can only assume the IRD concurs with Tooley's thinking on the issue.

Evidently, being opposed to torture isn't wholly bad. Rather, Tooley's complaint seems to be that it is bad if you don't bother to note that other countries torture in the same breath as mentioning the U.S. Like any of us believe that torture in North Korea, Pakistan, China or Israel etc. is somehow okay? Is there something inherently wrong with U.S. citizens pointing out--and being opposed to--U.S. torture? Are there any of us that would stand on the side of torture in any country?

Since the writing of Tooley's article, new evidence has come to light about torture, including the use of a scalpel to cut the testicles of one prisoner, a British subject, Binyam Mohamed, now being held at Gitmo.

Yes, you read that right.

Here is an except from yesterday's news from Think Progress:

The 25 lines edited out of the court papers contained details of how Mr Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, “is very far down the list of things they did,” the official said.

Another source familiar with the case said: “British intelligence officers knew about the torture and didn’t do anything about it.” [emphasis original]

--Ben Armbruster

In fairness to Tooley, if indeed he is opposed to all torture, fine with me. But his position sure doesn't seem to read that way. Rather, Tooley seems to suggest that only torturing 100 people (and that number is obviously arbitrary for we do not know just how many people the U.S. has tortured, its extent or methods or how many we have sent to foreign governments for rendition) just ain't so bad.

For those of us in the U.S. opposed to--and ashamed of--our government's position and rendering of torture, it is hardly surprising for us to suggest we need to clean up our own act. And it would surely not be in error to claim that we don't care who tortures or where, it is never right. And while groups around the world expose torture, we most certainly cannot leave America off that list. Sad, but true.

That we in the United States even have to have this discussion is shameful beyond words.

UPDATE: Go here to read more on Binyam Mohamed. VERY sad story, and now the Pentagon is alleged to be withholding information from President Obama on the matter. This gets weirder and weirder.

*Correction: Apparently, Tooley was a CIA Analyst for eight, not fourteen, years.