Torture is not American ...

Tuesday December 27, 2005

M. Speaker,

This bill determines how we as a nation will spend our considerable resources, both at home and abroad, in order to best protect our fellow Americans, our shared values, and our common interests.

And in doing so, people around the world will rightly view this legislation as a testament to the values our nation has chosen to embrace and promote – – how we have chosen to define ourselves at this critical moment in history.

Our international credibility, and the moral weight of our words, continues to be damaged by every new allegation of detainee mistreatment at the hands of American forces.

With every new revelation of secret detention facilities operating beyond public scrutiny, we take a perilous step towards that which we wish to defeat.

And stories of undisclosed domestic spying and wiretaps – approved by the White House and carried out by our top law enforcement agencies without Congressional knowledge or judicial review …

... these actions force citizens here and abroad to question our nation’s commitment to its own ideals: how determined are we to create an open world ruled by clear and established laws if we are abandoning them at home?

M. Speaker, the pictures from Abu Ghraib and the indefensible conduct they reveal…

... the creation of clandestine CIA facilities beyond the oversight of Congress and the world community …

... the troubling misuse of American power, undermining the good will born of the sincerest efforts of our fighting men and women…

... this is not the work of my America.

My America won two world wars and faced down fascism without using torture.

My America survived those troubling times without abandoning the civil and personal liberties which made us different and made our way of life worth fighting for.

My America practices what it preaches.

I applaud the fact that Senator McCain’s anti-torture amendment has been added to this appropriations bill. Mr. McCain understands that torture isn’t just morally reprehensible. It also gives us bad intelligence, undermines our credibility, and endangers our troops by providing their enemies with an excuse to mistreat them if they are captured.

I am relieved that most of my fellow Members in this House see the wisdom in Senator McCain’s words.

At the same time, there have been reports suggesting that the Army field manual, enshrined by Mr. McCain, is being quietly amended in a way which threatens to undermine his efforts.

If this is true, than this Congress must vigilantly monitor what is added to the list of acceptable interrogation procedures given to our troops. We must ensure that an established standard of behavior is not being subverted as quickly as it is being created.

And we must further guarantee that our nation continues to exemplify the kind of society we hope to encourage.

Today, we fund the continued operations of the defense community and all those tied to it. We do so gladly, because we still believe, as we always have, that ours is a way of life that should not perish.

But to change the values of our society at the moment we are fighting to preserve them at home and champion them abroad – this wouldn’t just be the height of irony, M. Speaker. It would be the height of tragedy.

We have many questions to answer about how the United States will define itself in the years ahead, and how it will interact with the world.

I hope that I and my colleagues use the upcoming holiday to reflect on what kind of an America they wish to create for future generations. I hope we take that question very seriously in the second half of this session.

I have faith in this body, just as I have faith in this nation, that we will possess the wisdom to do what is right, and the courage to right what is wrong.

The very nature of our democracy depends on it.

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