Becoming a citizen of the whole

Article 5.

•No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

After World War 2 our nation, shocked by the atrocities committed by Japan and Germany, played a key role in writing United Nation’s documents establishing humane treatment for all prisoners of war. The US spoke loud and clear saying that no prisoner should be tortured or humiliated while in captivity.

Unfortunately, those painful memories began to fade and were replaced by the painful memories of 9-11. Those universal standards became more and more inconvenient as we tried to get information from the people accused of being terrorists. Our nation, long convinced that we are the exception to every rule, began to chafe under article 5 of the Declaration of Universal Human Rights. We began to reject its prohibition of torture as long as Americans were the ones administering the treatment in question. To be succinct, we determined that no action could be called “torture” if we ourselves had perpetrated it.

So now the image of America in many minds around the world is not the lofty behavior we espoused after WW2, but the hooded figure of an Iraqi man with electric wires connected to his extended arms.