American Democracy and Torture

This frame grab from video, provided by Senate Television, shows Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D
This frame grab from video, provided by Senate Television, shows Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. speaking on the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. Senate investigators have delivered a damning indictment of CIA interrogation practices after the 9/11 attacks, accusing the agency of inflicting pain and suffering on prisoners with tactics that went well beyond legal limits. The torture report released Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee says the CIA deceived the nation with its insistence that the harsh interrogation tactics had saved lives. It says those claims are unsubstantiated by the CIA's own records. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. is at center, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. is at right. (AP Photo/Senate Television)

I am conscious of my good fortune to have been born into a democratic society. As messy as it can get -- and messy it is these days -- there is nothing more precious than a healthy democracy. As this tumultuous year closes we would all be served well to stop for a minute and reflect on how much we need to cherish it, exercise the rights inherent in it and for heaven's sake, not take it for granted.

When U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein recently released the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the U.S. use of torture, like many, I was both moved by her tenacity and shocked by the picture it painted of American democracy. America tortured people after 9/11 and here was the proof. You can debate whether or not it "worked" but it appears in most cases we never tried anything else so we'll never know. You can't debate what a hit this is on the moral imperative inherent in American democracy.

It's no secret that former Vice President Dick Cheney has never been one of my favorites. And I will admit that when I saw him rise again on the Sunday morning shows and other television outlets around this torture report a few weeks back, my first reaction was "Why are they talking to him? Shouldn't he be on trial for violating international law?" So, of course he should have been there. We live in a democracy! And, as he sits square in the middle of this whole controversy I had to admit I was curious as to his reaction.

There he was in all his glory, in all his arrogance, defending torture, or rather enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and rectal feeding -- which he said he believed was done for medical reasons. Really? He defended it all. I couldn't help but think that maybe it's time Vice President Cheney move from defending his actions on Fox News and Meet the Press, and be asked to defend it in a court of law.

Let's face it, turning this kind of microscope on our own actions brings with it a lot of controversy, calls that we are endangering or damaging the CIA, or opening a can of worms that is best left closed. The dilemmas of a free society are many, and this is one of them. And the dilemmas of a free society are messy. But we should never walk away from them because of that.