The May 1 Abbottabad raid has now received Hollywood treatment, replete with scenes of massive cruelty, with the subliminal message that valuable information can be extracted through torture.  The movie, “Zero Dark Thirty” – an Oscar contender – has drawn fire for its depiction of torture by US captors and interrogators. 

First, the applicable law: The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defines torture as “severe pain or suffering” that is “intentionally inflicted” and “at the instigation” or “with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.” The Convention states explicitly: “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever … may be invoked as a justification of torture.” The US ratified this Convention in 1994.

Shamefully, senior US officials and seasoned lawyers attempted to sanitize and sterilize the use of torture. During the fog of fear, their point of view got grossly over-represented. 

What remains missing is reflection and repentance. When American values were tested, did US policymakers pass the moral test? What if the tables are turned and similar cruelty is applied to Western captives? Does it not send a signal to tyrants elsewhere that torture is an acceptable way to deal with their recalcitrant citizens? 

Torture flouts Islamic jurisprudence and the universal norms of human decency and dignity.

Intolerance for a dissenting point of view is an issue not only for an autocratic state but also for a democratic society.  The name of Chuck Hagel has emerged as Obama’s nominee to head the Pentagon as US Defense Secretary. Chuck Hagel is now facing public attacks, not because of his integrity, but because in the past he dared to criticize Israel and its lobby.  When he was a Senator, Hagel had said: “I am a US Senator, not an Israeli Senator. … I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States, not to Israel.” The recently deceased General Schwarzkopf, who commanded US forces in 1991 that destroyed Iraqi infrastructure, did not speak for years with his sister, Ruth Barenbaum, because she was an anti-war activist. 

Pummeling the defenceless is unconscionable. By rationalizing that, the elders can only succeed in injecting their own fears and anxieties into the youngsters. In doing so, they have already lost.

It is plain and simple zulm.  Stop a person on the street in Lahore and ask how the Punjab police is viewed. Decorum would prohibit publishing the public response in a family newspaper.

Meanwhile, the termite-like nibbling at the foundation of the nation continues. Worship of the wealthy continues, while some set their goal to die as the richest man in the graveyard. As if this is not enough, dynastic pups are being unleashed to generate false public expectations. Unsurprisingly, then, a new governor of a pivotal province starts his tenure with a pledge for disintegration of the province he is tasked to govern.

Despite the magnitude of crises, the custody of the nation has been handed over to midgets.

As the Latin phrase ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ connotes, who will guard the guards?

The writer is an attorney-at-law and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He is the first Pakistani American member admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar. Email: mowahid@aol.com