In a recent column (“Panetta: Obama’s big gamble,” Jan. 12 Times-News), Bill O’Reilly comes out strongly in favor of “harsh interrogation,” a euphemism for torture.

The prospective head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, is against torture and rendition, and Bill O’Reilly is bent out of shape over it.

My question is simply put, “Are we a nation that tortures?” Keep in mind that Bush, Cheney, John Yoo and O’Reilly would like everyone to redefine torture as that which could cause imminent organ failure.

My dictionary defines torture as the infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion. Most of the world believes in this dictionary definition and would probably add severe emotional or psychological pain as well.

In any case, if we follow Bill O’Reilly’s rationalization then there are any number of scenarios that could be presented that would lead to the use of torture.

If a child is kidnapped and the police round up several suspects and strongly believe that one of them can lead them to the child, should the local police be allowed to employ “harsh interrogation” methods — you know, like pulling their fingernails out one at a time or hanging them up naked and applying an electric shock?

How about the state police learning about a teenage plot to bring firearms to school. If the teenagers taken into custody won’t reveal critical information should they have their kneecaps broken, or should a local ex-prizefighter come in and work them over, or should they be waterboarded?

If one or a hundred lives isn’t enough to warrant torture, then what is? The planted bomb in a football stadium, the backpack explosive in an office building, the dirty bomb on some freighter? Simply put, are we a nation that tortures?

President-elect Obama does not believe in torture. Why should he appoint as director someone in the CIA whose integrity has been compromised during the Bush years?

Don’t we who advocate a return to the moral and constitutional principles that have stood the test for over 200 years deserve and have the right to demand someone who is unsullied by the criminal malfeasance of the last eight years?

There was no terrorist attack in the seven years before 9/11. The fact that there has been none in the subsequent seven years is not due to George Bush and Dick Cheney rewriting the constitution and ignoring established law.

Are we a nation that tortures? If so then the Klaus Barbies of the world are only guilty of being on the losing side.

Their methods of extracting information are credible and the United States of America should gladly use theirs, the Spanish Inquisition’s and that of any other authors of “harsh interrogation” methods in order to keep us all free and happy.

Hopefully, most of us reject that notion.

Bill Tunney

Grantsville

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