Generous Orthodoxy  




Friday, March 18, 2005

Bob Herbert's Lonely Campaign, and What To Do About It

The columnist Bob Herbert has been trying to get our attention for quite a while, with little success so far. He flew to Ottawa last month to interview a Canadian citizen who was abducted by American security forces and sent to Syria (a country on our Very Bad list if not part of the Axis of Evil) to be tortured and incarcerated for one year. No information was extracted from him and no Al Qaeda ties were ever established. He was sent back to Ottawa to his wife and family, a mere shadow of his former self. This procedure of shipping people off to be tortured without due process is called “extraordinary rendition” (Herbert’s column 2/28/05).

 

Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts has introduced a bill opposing this policy. He says, “Torture is morally repugnant whether we do it or whether we ask another country to do it for us. It is morally wrong whether it is captured on film [as at Abu Ghraib] or whether it goes on behind closed doors unannounced to the American people.”

 

The so-called Christian Right has mobilized itself to the nth degree to send emails and letters by the thousands to the legislative and executive branches about abortion, prayer in the schools, stem-cell research, same-sex unions. Is there some reason for the silence of the mainline American churches? What is the reason? Why can’t we all get together and bombard Congress with support for the Markey legislation?

 

Bob Herbert happens to be African-American. Perhaps this is not an irrelevant fact. The famous black preacher Gardner Taylor last summer thundered from the pulpit that the images from Abu Ghraib were the most atrocious he had seen in many years. The photographs of the snarling dogs and terrorized prisoners reminded him of the dogs unleashed against nonviolent black protesters in Birmingham, Alabama forty years ago.

 

Why are our churches so silent? Is there some reason I don’t understand? Are we so fearful of terrorism that we are willing to remain silent, and therefore complicit, as out government turns a blind eye to methods that are utterly antithetical to the American character?

 

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