The Politics of Torture and Guantanamo Bay

03/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Combat Veterans and Senator Elect Scott Brown (R-MA) Arrive on Capitol Hill With Opposite Messages. Your voice is needed too.

It's a big day here in Washington DC if you care about torture, Guantanamo Bay and our soldiers who are in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A team of twenty combat veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are converging on the US Capitol today to meet with Members of Congress. They are representing two thousand of their fellow veterans who signed a letter to Members of Congress asking that they stop the politics of fear mongering and support our troops in harm's way by closing the military prison on Guantanamo Bay:

Every day that the facility at Guantanamo Bay remains open and detainees are held without trial is another day that terror networks have an effective recruiting poster. Closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay is in the national security interest of America and the troops that we put into harm's way. We urge you to do so without delay.

Ironically, the US Senate's soon-to-be newest member from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, arrives on Capitol Hill today as well. Brown was elected the day before yesterday to the seat held by the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

Brown is bringing a distinctly different message on the subject. He argues that water boarding is not torture and that Gitmo should remain open for business.

The debate over whether the United States should routinely inflict on detainees the very same torture techniques that we hung Japanese officials for inflicting on US soldiers in WWII is far from over.

As the Brown named Charlie would put it: "Good grief!"

A coordinated Twitter campaign is being launched today to stand with the combat veterans as they traverse the Halls of Congress. Coldplay, Trent Reznor, Rosanne Cash, Tom Morello, Amnesty International, the ACLU, Common Cause, Move On and many others have signed on and are adding their Tweets against torture and for the closing of Guantanamo. You can too if you are on Twitter by Tweeting your message of support with the hash tag: #closegitmo

It's been 364 days since President Obama announced that this stain on America would finally be removed - and that it would be removed within a year.

He made the announcement as he signed an Executive Order that threw the use of torture into the pages of US history that we should not be proud of. World leaders responded with accolades and citizens throughout the world uttered a collective sigh of relief - a page really had been turned in Washington. It was truly a new day in America.

Then, the right-wing fear mongers went to work. Dick Cheney climbed out of his bunker, Senate Minority Leader hit the Senate floor and the right-wing screamers hit the airwaves to denounce this new turn. How dare the Obama administration treat mass murders as, well, mass murderers! They are enemies of war, after all, and should be treated as such. No fair trials for terrorists, they snorted, military commissions are good enough for them.

Scott Brown could not agree more.

No matter that since 9/11 federal prosecutors have convicted 195 criminals on terrorist charges. That compares to a grand total of THREE for military tribunals. No matter that treating these diabolical criminals as warriors fighting for a cause is exactly what they want. It empowers them and helps their recruiters to reach potential terrorists with tales of glory.

General Charles Krulack, US Marine Corps Commandant from 1995 to 1999 and General Joseph Hoar, the Commander-in-Chief of US Central Command from 1991 to 1994, had this to say about the "underwear bomber" being treated as an enemy combatant and prisoner of war in a recent Op Ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Another argument of the 'fight fire with fire' camp is that suspects like Abdulmatallab don't 'deserve' the protection of US law. But the question is why he deserves to be treated differently from any other would-be mass murderer. To dignify Abdulmutallab with the designation 'enemy combatant' would only accord him status as a jihadist warrior. We need to send him and other would-be suicide bombers the opposite message: There is no nobility in, or ideological justification for, murdering innocent civilians.

The group of veterans from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan hitting Capitol Hill today includes Matt Alexander who personally interrogated more than 300 detainees and supervised the interrogation of more than a thousand others. He literally wrote the book on the subject: "How to Break a Terrorist." Time and again, Matt reports, those who he interviewed cited Guantanamo and the torture of US held prisoners as the number one reason that they joined the fight against America. The number one reason they sought to kill the men in women in uniform that Senator McConnell and Senator-elect Brown are so eager to send into harm's way.

Two thousand of them will give voice to another point of view on behalf of their comrades in arms: Stop the politics of fear and demagoguery and support our troops - close Guantanamo Bay NOW.

If today is not a wake-up call for America, I don't know what is.

There is another irony here, of course: It is McConnell who regularly implores political leaders in Washington to follow the lead of our US military commanders on matters of national security. Unless, of course, it is "off message." General David Petraeus' was off McConnell's message when he told Congress that Guantanamo Bay prison should close. General Petraeus knows more than most about why closing Gitmo is in our national security interest. It is a fundamental way to protect the men and women who Washington politicians put into harm's way. Colin Powell was off message too when he told a national television audience that if it were up to him, Gitmo would close not tomorrow, but this afternoon.

Today is a day for us all to be off Senator McConnell and Senator-elect Brown's message. Support the troops being sent into harm's way. Help two thousand combat veterans deliver their message to Congress: Close Gitmo NOW.

This post originally appeared on New Security Action. New Security Action is a new organization dedicated to fighting for a progressive, smart national security policy. We are fighting to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.