His assessment of the mood of the country may very well have been right when he suggested that “a lot of red-blooded Americans” agreed with his stance. Personally, I cringed when I read it.
Yet, a decade before this, as our country was still reeling from 911, I welcomed the emerging reports that the CIA was using “enhanced interrogation” methods on Al Qaeda operatives. One of those times of surging American pride was when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in March of 2003. Even as American citizens were receiving reports of his seizure, he was already undergoing severe interrogation methods at the hands of the CIA— including being forced to remain awake for 180 hours at one point. “This man was the mastermind behind those awful attacks. Anything our boys can do to get to the truth about the enemy is justifiable,” went my reasoning at the time.
How is it that my attitude toward the harsh treatment of prisoners underwent such a dramatic change in those few short years? While it is true that the Boston bombings were not nearly as destructive as the assault on the Twin Towers nearly twelve years earlier, the hatred the Tsarnaev brothers held toward everything American was certainly as virulent. My change of attitude came about as a result of a number of realizations.
Perhaps the first time I began to question the use of torture was when I started considering the CIA’s actions from the viewpoint of a believer rather than as a patriotic American. Last year, Chris Hitchens, a right-leaning writer, subjected himself to waterboarding at the hands of military personnel to see what it was like. Even though he knew he could call off the ordeal at any time, he said that the experience was so terrible that he “would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer” had there actually been an interrogation. He summed up his experience by quipping, “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”
Hitchens experienced two rounds of treatment. By contrast, Mohammed underwent this medieval form of torture 183 times! Senator John McCain, who knows firsthand what it is like to be brutalized by interrogators, characterized waterboarding as being “indisputably torture” and said it amounted to a “mock execution.”
“How is it,” I asked myself, “that this (presumed) unbeliever could have compassion on these men, but I—a follower of Christ—cannot find it in my heart to do the same?”
However much my mindset was altered by such reflections, the biggest change in my thinking came when I began to discern the spirit at work behind the scenes—a spirit that I didn’t want any part of. The United States was undergoing a spiritual transformation that was making it increasingly easy to justify all sorts of unmerciful behavior.
In some ways, this national change of thinking could be likened to the fervor that gripped the German people during the 30’s. For some fifteen years they had languished under the harsh terms imposed upon them by the Versailles Treaty at the conclusion of World War One. Adolph Hitler convinced them that he could lead them to a new future and a new Germany.
He subtly and gradually reordered national priorities, introducing governmental programs much like F.D.R.’s New Deal. The standard of living improved so dramatically that people were willing to overlook the growing mistreatment of the Jewish people.
Had they been more spiritually discerning, they would have understood that any government that is capable of brutalizing one segment of its population could be expected to eventually commit atrocities against others as well. And, sure enough, it wasn’t long before the torturing of citizens became commonplace under the new Reich.
One only needs to look at the latest headlines to see that the U.S. is entering a similar mindset. Cameras are being mounted everywhere. Drones are beginning to patrol our skies. The NSA is monitoring our phone calls and emails. The IRS has been caught targeting opposition groups. The press is being intimidated into compliance. Homosexual rights are trumping religious freedom of speech. The right to bear arms is under attack. One by one we are losing our basic freedoms as citizens. All of this is being pushed through under the guise of fighting terrorism, solving crime and rebuilding a crippled economy—some of the same arguments the Fuhrer offered.
Yes, there is a new day dawning in America. With that new day is a new mindset, complete with new ideals, new values and new goals. But this phenomenon we are witnessing is much bigger than the Obama administration. It is being driven by an unseen personality—one that is dark and sinister.
The final step in the reversal of my post-911 thinking came about when I considered the treatment another “outsider” received at the hands of the “red blooded” patriots of his day. Had technology been more advanced at the time, perhaps the cry to “Crucify Him!” would have been tweeted rather than shouted in the midst of a mob.
Yes, I can see a new America emerging in the future—one that increasingly marginalizes those of us who don’t agree with its new ideals. Perhaps the day will come when the latest buzz on Twitter will be the call to torture those who stand outside that new America—people like you and me. I don’t know about you but personally I would prefer to receive torture than to give it. If these are the options I am faced with, you can count me out of this new way of thinking.
Torture in the New America?,Share