A Sikh Voice on Post-9/11 Torture

As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon approaches, I am filled with a whole mess of thoughts and emotions.  9/11 was a turning point in the United States–and the world–in so many ways.  I need not explain what it has meant for us Sikhs in the United States and beyond, but in the coming days and weeks we will try to highlight some of the important initiatives taking place in commemoration of the 10th anniversary that go beyond jingoistic patriotism and provide opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and moving toward healing and justice.

Today, I was pleasantly surprised to read a compelling, heartfelt column in the Huffington Post about post-9/11 torture practices by the US government — written by a Sikh.  In the piece, Satpal Singh, of the World Sikh Council, states:

I must shed the tears that I have been holding back for seven years. It was 1 a.m. on April 29, 2004, and I could not sleep. The beacon that I had always looked up to had gone dark.

I had just heard about Abu Ghraib. It shook my faith in my country’s ability to uphold its values. Admittedly, it takes the strongest of the strong to face the evil that we were facing, and the highest of morality to face it without losing one’s own morality. But now, even America, the mightiest of the mighty, the champion of human rights, the unquestioned upholder of morality, had blinked in the face of evil. The terror had seized us. Faced with evil, we had abandoned our own values.

One of the many tragedies of the American post-9/11 era is that torture has become a routine tactic in the treatment of terrorism suspects.  While these policies began during the Bush Administration (see a new report by Human Rights Watch on the subject here), there seems to be much less protest of their continuation under Obama’s presidency.  While Obama promised to closed down the infamous Guantanamo detention center during his presidential campaign, it still remains as do Bush/Cheney era interrogation tactics.

Quoted in the Guardian, civil rights attorney and activist Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights states:

“I did not like it when the violations of rights were temporary but now, because of Obama going along with the changes, they are becoming a permanent fixture of our legal landscape…”

Ratner, who was among the first, small group of lawyers to fight on behalf of the Guantánamo detainees, said Obama had the chance to close Guantánamo but became weak-kneed about it. “Indefinite detention, restrictions on habeas corpus, rendition, all these continue under Obama. We still have military commissions under Obama.”

Satpal Singh responds to this bleak reality (especially given Cheney’s unapologetic justification of American torture in his recently released memoir) with a moral voice, a voice rooted in the basic principles of Sikhi.

Many religions believe in a compassionate God, and that all humans are children of God. When most of us would shudder just thinking about our child being tortured, how can we justify the brutalization of God’s sons and daughters? In doing so, we assume that the evil we face is greater than the mercy of God. I would think that even those who do not believe in God, but otherwise profess high morality, would not endorse torture. As the National Religious Campaign Against Torture has emphasized, “torture is always immoral and can never be justified under any circumstances.”

You can read the entire column here and learn more about these issues and take action here.

Satpal Singh Ji concludes, “Flood the consciousness of the world with Godly love and compassion.  We can stare evil in the face, or blink. The choice is ours.”

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21 Responses to “A Sikh Voice on Post-9/11 Torture”

  1. Mohinder Singh says:

    Boo Hoo brooklynwala,it is coz of this enhanced interrogation techniques we have not had another attack on US soil.By having a single objective after 10 yrs we got OBL.By doggingly persuing anti terrorist policies we have dismantled the structure of Al-Quaeda,in achieving these goals if we did not follow some geneva convention rules so be it.The torture as u bleeding hearts call it was/is only used on the non state partcipants in this war on terrorism,the people who started this atrocity should have known better.War is ugly in which a lot of things are lost least of which is morality.An elected govt's job is to secure it's terrority and lives of its citizen,which US govt. did.Grow up dude.

  2. nkr says:

    there are rules governing warfare – dharmic rules of warfare – even enemies were given water by Khalsa fauj – these rakshasas and their false flag attacks/permanent war economy/torture so as to steal others wealth – neocolonialism etc can only be done away through the skakti of Naam – nothing else – big Satan/little Satan: o din avai when these demons in quasi-human garb are no more

  3. Jodha says:

    @Sanehval and @Navdeep – Mohinder agrees with the policies of KP Gill. He is a statist through and through. He acts as a troll on this blog, attempting to flame. He has pretended in the past that he was privy to the meetings between Indira Gandhi's cronies and Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale. Next, I am sure he will claim he is KP Gill's chacha. Why bother with such an imposter?

  4. Meena says:

    I would recommend "The Power of Nightmares" if you haven't see it already….viewable for free on google video. Very enlightening and very well done. Also see "Taxi to the Dark Side"!!!

  5. Mohinder Singh says:

    Before anything ever started in punjab,back in 81 KPS was doing the same operations in assam against the non statae players/terrosists.During that period every sikh worth his/her salt was thumping their chests & praising/encouraging him including JSB.When he applied the same technique in punjab in the late 80's early 90's thats when he was vilified.However as one can see after 95 there has been no terrosism in punjab.BTW the policy for getting tough was given a get go in a meeting in chg. chaired by then home minister Buta Singh & attended by MoS PC Chidambaran,Beant Singh,home sec. Pillai & other senior officers & it worked brilliatly just like in USA.

  6. matwalojiya says:

    The US have killed millions in its conflicts with Planet Earth. Its bloodlust shows no sign of abating. Human rights, democractic values simply a veil.When this is dropped no wonder we see perplexed faces especially those taken in by the hype. It cannot be any different. Imperialism is exactly that imperialism! US interests demand aggression while talking peace. Dishonesty is a state instrument that goes hand in hand with its tools of torture & mayhem. The World Trade Centre casualties were very tragic but do not compare to the carnage the US has caused & continues to cause. Is it really concerned about the racist attacks on Sikhs? I think not. In its mind death isnt death its ‘friendly fire’ ‘collateral damage’anything but what it is,the truth! How would Sikhis Gurus react to the US? I think as they did against tyrants in their time arms and learning in hand fighting the good fight come what may!

  7. Mohinder Singh says:

    11 people killed 90 people injured in bomb blast in delhi on wednesday.Will my progressive,liberal and bleeding heart friends/bloggers care to define the morality of this barbaric act.

  8. matwalojiya says:

    The Delhi bomb blast is a consequence surely of the Indian elites communalism? Since when has it served the ordinary Indian? Hyped as the largest democracy its anything but!Consigning 50% to eternal poverty is hardly a tribute,nor are the many wars against its own peoples! More innocents have died in 64 independent years than 200 colonised! Deploying troops of differing ethnicity the tried & tested of divide & rule! An end to terrorism can be secured politically alone & never militarily.

  9. Mohinder Singh says:

    Well reading the couple of responses by@meena & @matwalojiya,one can safely say that most of the diaspora sikhs have been brainwashed.Especially the ones born in diaspora in 1984 or after,they have been raised on fallacies about bluestar,percieved discrimination against sikhs and false bravado about sikhs.When members of a community who were born outside india,keep on blaming everybody else for their plight it really is pathetic.Maybe they should look inwards once in a while and try to find some answers.

  10. matwalojiya says:

    Its a question of proportion. 60 million anihilated by US’ wars interventions coups is far worse than 3000 dead at WTC!Do the math!Similarly Indias matchless slaughter dwarves the various bomb blasts etc. I dont celebrate these outrages but neither do I blindly lap up whatever bilge various elites serve up to justify far greater crimes! The truly brainwashed are apologists for the latter!

  11. patel says:

    Meena, Jodha and cohorts are like the modern day bramhin but rather than place their faith in janeu, their faith is in the pseudo lefty liberal politics of pc gone wild. To them the 3000 victims of osama are the enemy and the solders of osama the true victims. Likee the perverse bramhin of Guru Nanak Jis time who secures his place in heaven thru his idols ignoring the despair aroumd him, Meena and Jodha ignore the pain of the innocent while worshipping their pc gone wild liberal gods. Alas a reckoning awaits them when they encounteer the truth.

  12. Meena says:

    @Patel: the same reckoning that awaits you and your co-horts in Gujaret as you sat silently by when babies were ripped from their mother's wombs in the anti-Muslim pogroms of 2002. Shame on your hypocrisy! Take a look into your own dark (not pun intended) soul before pointing your finger at others.

  13. pyar kana says:

    Hi there all i have to say is i have muslim etc friends and i have learnt that they know whats happening and they have there own beleifs in whats right and whats wrong, Bt we do not condem any terrorist acts or killings, it is pure evil and if you have a dececnt heart you will agree that evil should be demolished. Why hurt others and kill others its just so wrong, [Edited by Admin Singh. No name-calling will be tolerated]

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