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Originally published Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 10:35 AM

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Editorial: Moral growing pains for America with release of torture report

Torture of terrorism suspects is a stain on America. But exposing and admitting to the mistakes makes this a better nation.

Seattle Times Editorial


TORTURE is abhorrent to the American sensibility — especially when the perpetrator is America.

But if this is the nation it purports to be, America must fess up to the revolting conclusions of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report presented Tuesday.

In its 500 gag-inducing pages, the executive summary of the report details the Central Intelligence Agency’s campaign of secret and illegal “enhanced interrogation techniques” used on suspects detained following the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon.

Among other things, detainees were subjected to the controversial “waterboarding” practice of simulated drowning. One lost an eye, another died of hypothermia, and others were required to stand on broken legs or force-fed through a disturbing procedure called “rectal rehydration.”

These revelations become more deplorable with the report’s conclusion that the CIA misled Congress and the White House about its program, and that none of the barbarism led to information that kept Americans safe.

The cringe-worthy sadism done in the name of national security ranks among America’s most sickening contrarian actions.

At the same time, President Obama has yet to fulfill his 2008 campaign promise to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility where some torture took place.

But the nation’s saving grace comes in its historic insistence on admitting to its mistakes.

“One of the things that sets us apart from other countries is that when we make mistakes, we admit them,” Obama told TV network Telemundo on Tuesday.

The nation admitted to 144 years of gender-based voter discrimination when it ratified women’s suffrage in 1920.

It took 134 years after abolition for an apology for slavery in 1997.

And it took two years for the U.S. government to acknowledge in the midst of the Vietnam War that U.S. soldiers slaughtered hundreds of unarmed civilians in the My Lai Massacre in 1968.

Only when the country acknowledges such mistakes and holds itself to the moral standards it preaches globally can it truly claim to be the great nation politicians casually profess it to be.

Members of Congress who refute the legitimacy of the Senate report, or question the wisdom of making its disconcerting details public should remember that.

And declassifying the full 6,700-page report would be a further step in that direction.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Mark Higgins, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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