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Newspapers in America's Three Biggest Cities Have Joined Call to Honor Opponents of Torture

Josh Bell,
Former Senior Communications Strategist, Center for Democracy,
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July 27, 2011

Today the Los Angeles Times published a stirring editorial calling on President Obama to honor those in government who resisted the Bush administration’s torture policies. Joining The New York Times and the Chicago Sun-Times, the paper spotlighted public servants like:

  • Marine Lt. Col. V. Stuart Couch, who refused to seek a conviction based on statements elicited by torture
  • Army Specialist Joseph Darby, who exposed the abuse at Abu Ghraib
  • Former CIA Inspector General John Helgersen, who documented abuses at CIA prisons and questioned the legality of the torture policy

The L.A. Times wrote:

Much has been written about how human and normal it is to follow orders; the less-mentioned corollary is that it is difficult to buck authority, to risk disapprobation and backlash to do the right thing…

The ACLU is right that memories of past abuses shouldn’t be allowed to fade. From mistreatment of inmates at Guantanamo Bay to the repeated waterboarding of “high value” detainees to the rendition of suspected terrorists to secret overseas prisons, this country committed appalling violations of human rights — all in the name of combating terrorism. (It isn’t clear whether any of these techniques served their purpose, but that’s not the point. Torture cannot be validated by “success.”)

Last Saturday, an editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times also pushed the point that the true representatives of American values are not those who endorsed torture, but rather the brave men and women who did all they could to stop it:

In 2004, President George W. Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to George J. Tenet, the former CIA director who had signed off on the use of torture.

That sent Americans one message.

Obama should award the same medal to men and women of the caliber of Couch, Darby and Helgerson, who refused to sign off on anything that did not abide by our nation’s bedrock ideals.

That would send a different message.

Right now, you can add your voice to our Honor Courage campaign by asking President Obama to send the right message to America and the rest of the world by honoring those who stood up against torture.

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