I have a Facebook account. As a member I get to post things about myself, comment on the posts of others and discuss with folks — so long as we agree to be friends in advance — the pertinent questions of our day. I usually post on politics or philosophy.
Because I have friends who don’t always share my ideological beliefs, my Facebook page sometimes reads like a slugfest at a local saloon.
Last week, I posted a news story about the Red Cross’ report on how the U.S. treats its “detainees.” You don’t have to read the news story to learn about their horrendous discoveries and our nation’s shame; you can read the report itself at www.nybooks.com/icrc-report.pdf completely unedited and without a journalist applying any alleged bias. You won’t want to miss the chapters titled “beating and kicking,” “beating by use of a collar,” “suffocation by water.” Oh, and don’t forget “deprivation/restricted provision of solid food.” That starving part is a total cliffhanger.
Once you get through the details of what we — that’s our CIA — did to these captives, you can race forward to the juicy chapters titled “Legal aspects related to undisclosed detention,” and the prompt of this column, “Health provision and the role of the Medical Staff.”
We live in the largest, wealthiest democracy in the world, where every day we chant in our elementary schools “liberty and justice for all.” So you’d think that last title was about treating the detainees when they get sick. But no, it’s about doctors helping the CIA torture human beings.
If you have read the Hippocratic oath then you know that doctors swear to “do no harm.”
But not all doctors take that oath. In light of this most recent Red Cross report, doctors not taking the oath seem a little less surprising. But that doesn’t mean that they take no oath at all. No, some doctors prefer not to swear to uphold the Greek model for ethics; they prefer a Judeo-Christian concept and take the oath of Maimonides instead. Maimonides was a Jew who practiced medicine in Spain during the 12th century. I know what you’re thinking, “Well, that must be where they get torture doctors’ oaths. Because of the Spanish Inquisition, they must have come up with an oath that allows this sort of thing.”
Many doctors take Maimonides oath because it goes further than Hippocrates. Maimonides said, “May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.” Maimonides’ oath also says, “The eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures. May the love for my art actuate me at all time” and it even warns against allowing avarice to motivate a doctor’s actions. You may know avarice to mean greed, but it also means “an inordinate desire for some supposed good.” One might call “information from a suspected terrorist,” a “supposed good.”
But as Dr. Christopher Ford, senior fellow of the Hudson Institute cautions in his paper The Question of Reliability, “torture may well decrease, rather than increase, the likelihood of truthfulness.”
So much for the “supposed good” theory.
So after I posted this Red Cross story on my Facebook page someone wrote that torture was justified to “preserve our way of life.”
Huh? Is that the way of life where doctors help secret police organizations torture people? Or is it the way of life where our veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are 35 percent more likely to be out of work and unable to care for themselves and their families? USA Today says one in nine of our country’s brave soldiers are without jobs. Sending them to war and then abandoning them when they get home — isn’t our government torturing enough people right here at home?
I was going to end this with an inspiring quote by George Washington who promised punishment to his soldiers if they torture the enemy. But collusion by repugnant U.S. doctors means we no longer deserve to be associated with Washington. Preserving “our way of life” through torment deserves the words of a guy like Ho Chi Minh, “We have a secret weapon, it is called Nationalism.”
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.