Washington, DC.- Since Abu Ghraib pictures were released, torture has been a common topic among the media, politicians, and also the public in the US. The debate has been fostered by the recent release CIA reports about the methods followed by the US officials at Guantanamo prison.
Last week at his “100 days” news conference, Obama made some remarks about his views on torture. He quoted Winston Churchill and an article he had just read about him. Mr. Obama said:
“I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British, during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, “we don’t torture,” when the — the entire British — all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat. And — and — and the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking shortcuts, and over time, that corrodes what’s — what’s best in a people.”
After Obama’s news conference, journalists and bloggers spent days dissecting his remarks. The President was talking about the treatment of Nazi soldiers in London and elsewhere during the Great War. He quoted Churchill, actually, to highlight what he already said at his inauguration speech: “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals”.
Some historians have opened the arguing about the convenience of quoting Churchill in that news conference because it is not clear what the former British primer minister really knew about torture. Whatever Churchill knew, what I really believe is in the message of false “choice between” safety and ideals.
Obama is a law professor, and in some ways, he is still an idealist. Washington is turning him more realist, but he stills keep this magic aurea of a young new politician who spread his idea of change and a new way to do politics. During the campaign, Obama rejected Bush policies and now, publishing these reports, he is reinforcing his ideals: in order to defend our beliefs, we don’t have to break them.