There are some in our country who adamantly believe that America is a “Judeo-Christian nation,” meaning, this country was founded upon Judeo-Christian values. Even though history may dispute this claim, it is made nonetheless. The fact that “In God We Trust” has been enshrined on our currency may give bolster to this claim (although it was added much later, in the early 20th Century. Our Founding Fathers’ choice for national motto was “E Pluribus Unum,” or, “Out of Many, One.” Pretty areligious, isn’t it?).
I am not here to dispute this claim, but I do ask the question: do we really trust in God? Has our country acted – most especially since September 11 – in a manner becoming of a people who truly trust in God? Not at all, I am afraid to say. Let us summarize America’s course of action since the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001.
As the Washington Post first reported on November 2, soon after 9/11, the CIA set up secret prisons where it took some suspects caught in the “war on terror.” This immediately caused a dilemma: what if these suspects decided not to talk? What if they refused to cooperate with CIA interrogators? Would it be ok to torture them? But, wouldn’t that violate both U.S. and International law?
Not to worry, our government had that covered! In August 2002, Justice Department lawyers (in collaboration with our now attorney general) drafted a memorandum stating that laws prohibiting torture do “not apply to the President’s detention and interrogation of enemy combatants.” Moreover, the memo tightened the definition of torture to mean pain caused by an interrogation that must include “injury such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions.” Thus, we could torture terror suspects and tell the world, “America does not torture anyone.” Is this becoming of a nation that trusts in God?
At about the same time these prisons were erected, the CIA was abducting terror suspects and sending them to foreign countries abroad for interrogation, where it was almost certain that they would be tortured. It was a program called “extraordinary rendition.” Now, the countries to which we sent these suspects told the United States, “Oh don’t worry, we won’t torture them. You have our word,” and the U.S. took them at their word. Again, this way, terror suspects could be tortured and we could say to the rest of the world – with a straight face – that “America does not torture anyone.” Is this becoming of a nation that trusts in God?
Also at the same time, more and more captives from the battlefield of Afghanistan (many of whom were innocent people) were being sent to Guantanamo Bay as “enemy combatants,” to be imprisoned there in perpetuity, without benefit of legal counsel, due process, and access to the judicial system. What was more worrying was the government’s detention of its own citizens as “enemy combatants,” locking them away without access to legal counsel or the benefit of due process as guaranteed by the Constitution (remember that document, the Constitution?). Is this becoming of a nation that trusts in God?
Then, even though the dust from the bombing of Afghanistan did not yet clear, the Bush Administration began to make its case for war with Iraq by (falsely) claiming that Iraq was teeming with weapons of mass destruction. In fact, the Administration made such a claim so forcefully, that we thought said weapons of mass destruction would hit our troops in the face as they crossed into Iraq from Kuwait. Moreover, Vice President Dick Cheney continually hinted – although never actually saying it outright – that Al Qaeda was linked to Saddam Hussein, that Iraq and 9/11 were somehow linked. We have since come to learnthat this assertion was based on the account of a prisoner “rendered” to Egypt for more “interrogation,” who later said he fabricated the claim to escape harsh treatment. Is this becoming of a nation that trusts in God?
Well, we invaded Iraq and no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. The purported link between Iraq and Al Qaeda was deemed to be false by the 9/11 Commission. And now, more and more American and Iraqi lives are being lost in a war that is increasingly being seen for the disastrous mistake it was, and one from which America can not extricate herself. What’s worse, with each American life lost, the vile and vicious terrorists who have flocked to Iraq are getting better trained in urban and guerilla warfare, as well as terrorist techniques. When they go home, they will likely bring their “jihad” experiences with them to their countries of origin, further destabilizing the world. Did this “pre-emptive strike” on a country that was obviously no threat to the United States reflect a nation that trusts in God?
I mean, what does it mean to trust in God? How does a nation that claims it trusts in God supposed to act? It is supposed to act in a manner that is just and upright, because it knows that so long as it stays on God’s side, it will never fail. It knows that God is the Most Powerful, that God is able to do all things. And if God fights its battles, it can never lose. But, to have God on its side, it cannot stoop to a new level of immorality because, although I can’t speak for God, I know for a fact that God does not stand on the side of torture, abuse, injustice, and falsehood.
A nation that trusts in God does not torture suspects in its custody, no matter how brutal and vicious they may be. A nation that trusts in God does not detain indefinitely terror suspects simply because they are “not prisoners of war, but enemy combatants.” A nation that trusts in God does not invade another country based upon faulty intelligence (if not outright lies) to open the “central front” in the “war on terror.” It knows that God will always lend His Helping Hands so long as it does what is right. I mean, what better ally could America have than God?
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and writer. He is the co-author of “The Beliefnet Guide to Islam,” published by Doubleday in 2006. His blog is at godfaithpen.com.