Thursday, January 15, 2009

Moved To Tears

So, I was driving along an expressway today, taking my car to the garage for a routine maintenance. I had NPR on the radio, and as I listened to the top news stories on "All Things Considered" I felt my eyes filling with tears.

The story--Eric Holder's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Never mind that MY senator, Arlen Specter, makes a spectacle of himself "grilling" Holder about his advising President Clinton on pardoning Marc Rich. I do not recall Specter being so vociferous questioning Alberto Gonzalez. But that's not why I was moved to tears.

(photo from

No, the interchange that filled my eyes with tears was between Senator Leahy, who chairs the committee, and Eric Holder.

Question: Is waterboarding torture.

Answer: Waterboarding is torture. It was so defined under the Spanish Inquisition and when used by the Japanese in World War II, and it remains so today.

There--that was it. I felt a catch in my throat. My eyes began to fill with tears--and I thought: finally. A prospective attorney general for our country who has the courage to say waterboarding is torture.

It gets better.

Question: Does the president have the power to immunize people against criminal charges if they use waterboarding.

Answer: No one is above the law.

And you could almost hear the tremendous crack as the shell of taint that has surrounded our country and robbed us of moral authority in the world begins to shatter.

Of course, there will be someone who uses the ticking time bomb test. It goes like this: suppose you grab a terrorist who you know has placed a bomb somewhere (say in the middle of Times Square or some other place populated with loads of people). Isn't it justified to torture that person to get him to tell you where the bomb is. So, you take one life--but you save thousands.

And my answer is--no, it is not justified. If we do that--we are no better than the people we presume to oppose.

So, thank you, Eric Holder--my eyes cleared, and I continued safely to the garage. But, I felt a little better about where my country is headed.


Ginger said...

I'm with you on this. My amah in Malaysia used to tell me about the Japanese using this kind of torture on people who lived on our island. It was horrible. I wish it were unthinkable that anyone in this country would EVER defend such a practice.

Anvilcloud said...

This is great. Maybe honour and dignity are returning to Washington.

NCmountainwoman said...

As we move closer and closer to January 20th, I feel more and more confident. I saw Rep. John Boehner on Jim Lehrer this evening. I usually mute the television, but to my surprise, Margaret Werner's interview with him didn't make me angry at all. Perhaps there is some hope for a more bipartisan government. It will be a struggle, but I honestly believe things will get better. Imagine, Barack Obama going to a dinner party at George Will's home!

Liza Lee Miller said...

I so agree with you. We, as a nation, tell the world that we are better and that the world should do things our way and then we don't do things in that way that we know is right . . . it's so frustrating and disappointing and sad.

Dog-geek said...

Amazing, isn't it? Our country may actually start walking the walk again, rahter than just giving lip service to our supposed standards of conduct. It feels like the healing has already begun, and it isn't even Jan 20 yet.

Climenheise said...

We'll see how we continue, but I agree that this is an important first step. I don't feel as much healing as some, but then living outside the country changes what one feels about the US in general. Still, it's a valuable and important first step.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

The US will be eternally flawed if the war criminals are not brought to justice. Only then can the slate be wiped clean. If the American people do not do it,as the should, the International may have to.

I hope a multitude of Americans are moved by legal and moral truths well spoken too long in the last 8 years covered with intellectual fuzz.

Mauigirl said...

I was very glad to hear this. The question will be whether he prosecutes those who have flouted the law.

Ginnie said...

I am very encouraged by the change going on in Washington. I just pray that Obama will be kept safe.

JeanMac said...

I am very excited about your new president and kudos to that man for his stand. Canada has had it's stains recently - hope powers to be read about this.

nina said...

Me, too.