09/01/2011 04:44 pm ET Updated Nov 01, 2011

No Matter What Cheney Says, Torture Is Never Acceptable

It is hard to believe. The former vice president of this great nation is admitting that he gave leadership to acts which are immoral under God and unlawful under our criminal code and Constitution, and he proudly declares he would do it again.

In an NBC interview that aired this week during the release of his book, "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir," former Vice President Richard Cheney asserts that he has "no regrets" about supporting the euphemistically named "enhanced interrogation" techniques, and in retrospect, he would authorize waterboarding again, even though it's widely considered a violation of U.S. law. "I would strongly support using it again if circumstances arose where we had a high-value detainee and that was the only way we could get him to talk," Cheney told NBC's Jamie Gangel.

The former vice president is wrong on several accounts -- morally, legally, and practically wrong. First, he has put our nation at odds with our deepest moral values. The vast majority of America's religions proclaim the inherent worth and dignity of every person and say clearly that torture is immoral. For example, the Catholic Church states in its teachings that "Torture is an intrinsic evil." Yet Cheney states he ordered waterboarding and he would do it again.

Second, his language violates the legal system of the United States. Torture is against the law. Our nation's legal system is established on the principle that no one is above the law and no one, no matter how high his or her position is in the government, has the right to impunity. Yet former Vice President Cheney was a leading force in the decision to carry out torture, violating U.S. law.

Third, Cheney says he would use torture now if that were the "only way" to get a "high-value detainee" to talk. But torture is never the only way to get a person to talk. Expert interrogators tell us repeatedly that torture creates unreliable information and is a powerful recruiting tool for our enemies. Look at the torture-induced statement that formed the primary foundation for then Secretary of State Colin Powell's false claim before the United Nations that Iraq was concealing weapons of mass destruction.

Cheney disgraced this country and continues to disgrace himself. He may have "no regrets," but he is simply wrong in his view of the use of torture. Cheney refuses to learn the lesson learned by civilized countries after World War II -- torture is always immoral and can never be justified under any circumstances.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a national coalition of more than 300 religious organizations, has long called for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate U.S.-sponsored torture and to recommend safeguards to end U.S.-sponsored torture forever. The need for such a commission has never been more apparent than it is today, with a former vice president of the United States proudly proclaiming his support of torture.

We have a moral, legal, and spiritual obligation to establish an impartial, nonpartisan and independent Commission of Inquiry to gather all the facts surrounding our nation's use of torture, to affirm our abhorrence of torture, and to make recommendations to ensure torture will never happen again at the hands of the United States. We call upon the president and Congress to create such a commission immediately.

Perhaps reliving the story of the horrors committed with approval from the vice president in the aftermath of 9/11 will compel serious investigation by the U.S. government. Nothing less is at stake than the soul of our nation.

Rev. Richard Killmer, a Presbyterian minister, is the Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.