John Connolly: US leaders abandoned moral high ground after 9/11

Last modified: Thursday, December 18, 2014

To the editor:

I would like to register a protest against the terms of the current debate raging over the “torture report” of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Those who, like myself, are appalled by the practices of the CIA in the years immediately following the events of 9/11 should not have to claim that no actionable intelligence was gained by those practices.

The reason the United States should not engage in torture is not that it is fruitless, but that it is morally abhorrent, a disgraceful violation of human rights.

Then-President George W. Bush himself said America does not engage in torture. Whether he lied or was deceived by his aides is irrelevant: his statement expressed what should be a truth accepted by all of us and one that guides the actions of our government.

Growing up in the Cold War climate of the 1950s I was proud of our nation for its proclaimed adherence to a higher standard of morality than that followed by the likes of the Soviet Union, Communist China and North Korea. Indeed, our superiority to those nations was based on that adherence, and not, say, on our higher standard of living.

But after 9/11 our country’s leaders abandoned that moral high ground, allowing us to become a nation that does, or at least did, condone torture, contrary to international agreements we had been proud to sign.

Now anyone who pays attention to the Senate report knows that we Americans all have reason to be ashamed, no matter whether “useful” information was gained from those whose human rights we trampled on.

John M. Connolly


John M. Connolly is the Sophia Smith Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Smith College.


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