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Sunday’s Compassion Forum | Human Rights and Torture

As some of you know, I also work with Faith in Public Life and this Sunday, April 13, CNN will be broadcasting a special conversation with presidential candidates* Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama. This historic Compassion Forum has been organized by interfaith leaders from across the ideological spectrum and will focus on five key issues: domestic and international poverty, global AIDS, climate change, genocide in Darfur, and human rights and torture.

Clinton and Obama, in back-to-back interviews, will field questions from CNN’s Campbell Brown and Newsweek’s Jon Meacham as well as prominent members from the faith community. The Compassion Forum, sponsored by Faith in Public Life, will air at 8 p.m. ET on April 13.

For the next five days I’m going to highlight one of those issues here.


A new exposé in Vanity Fair by British attorney Philippe Sands reveals new details about how attorney John Yoo and other high-ranking administration lawyers helped design and implement the interrogation policies seen at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and secret CIA prisons.

According to this article, “The Green Light,” then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and other top officials personally visited Guantanamo in 2002, discussed interrogation techniques and witnessed interrogations.

On the 7th of February, 2002, President Bush adopted the decision that none of the detainees at Guantanamo would be able to rely on any protections under the Geneva Conventions, including the prohibition against cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or torture. And Doug Feith described to me how he and General Myers worked together, and that he, in particular, took the steps to ensure that none of these detainees could rely on Geneva. And I put it to him, “Isn’t the consequence of getting rid of Geneva that there’s essentially a blank page? All the constraints on abusive interrogation are gone.” And his response was, “That was precisely the point.” And I thought that was rather telling, because the administration has never owned up to the fact that the reason they dis-applied Geneva was precisely to open the door to aggressive interrogation.

According to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture: “Religious institutions are called to embody these values and to engage in these tasks because of the authority they bring to issues of morality. Religious traditions emphasize ethical behavior as a demonstration of faith in action. They also provide leadership in secular society, playing an important role in influencing issues of morality at the national, state, and local levels. Furthermore, the infrastructure they provide supports the millions of people who covet justice and peace for all of God’s creation.

Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian, politicist, and observer of 19th century America, observed that “America is great because America is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” It is important for people of faith to impress upon Americans and our leaders in Washington that America’s goodness, and hence its greatness, is seriously compromised by the practice of torture, or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments of detainees.”

If anyone has any doubts about the systemic cessation of greatness, watch this: MATURITY WARNING

What would you ask a presidential candidate about an American Christian’s duty toward human rights and the morality of enhancing interrogation?

*Sen. McCain has been invited but has unfortunately not accepted to date. The Compassion Forum, sponsored by Faith in Public Life, will air on CNN at 8 p.m. ET on April 13.

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