Would John Wayne have approved torturing prisoners?

The Republicans have commandeered the traditional trappings of patriotism and have laid claim to the use of any patriotism inspiring slogans, images, and or historic personalities, but we are going to risk their wrath and ask: Would John Wayne have endorsed torture? Since the conservatives like control the dialogue, they would try to foil all liberal attempts to make sense by throwing in a cheap diversionary move rather than answering the question. It seems quite likely they would respond to this question by asserting that the question breaks down into two versions Would the American icon known as John Wayne have condoned the torture of prisoners or would the actor, Marion Mitchell Morrison (AKA John Wayne), a well known conservative, have endorsed the enhanced questioning methods approved by the President of the United States?

Fans tend to think that the John Wayne icon’s code of ethics was summarized best in the line from “The Shootist:” “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same from them.” (One assumes that means he wouldn’t want to be tortured as a prisoner and therefore wouldn’t inflict it on others if the situation were reversed.)

During World War II, Gino Merli’s position was overrun by German troops. Merli played dead. A German soldier wanted to make sure it was a dead American whose body he saw, so he stuck hi bayonet into the area Merli would have squashed if he sat down. Merli used self-control and convinced the German he was contending with a dead man. After the Germans passed by, Merli jumped up and used an automatic weapon to mow down a large number of German soldiers. He got a Medal of Honor and would have had a unique perspective for making pronouncements for or against inflicting pain to gain information. Do you honestly think Gino Merli would have endorsed torture to augment information gathering?

Initially we intended to run a longer list and look at other American heroes such as Sgt. York, Audi Murphy, General Custer (which tribe of Native Americans was noted for the quality of its torture?) and General Custer’s brother (who won two Medals of Honor) and see how they might possibly have answered the torture question, but since a Republican President started the torturing and since a new Democratic President seems to be giving his blessing to most of his predecessor’s war policies,, it would seem, now, to be a moot question. Why bother with hypothetical answers to something that ain’t gonna change?

Since there will be some technical and logistical challenges presented later in the week, this will be our “Happy Forth of July” Saturday morning column posted a bit early.

Don’t fritter away time worrying if John Wayne would or would not have sanctioned torture, just go out and celebrate Independence Day.

In “The Defendant,” G. K. Chesterton wrote: “‘My country, right or wrong,’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober.'”

Now the disk jockey will play John Wayne’s recording “The Pledge of Allegiance.” We’re ready to go stake out a prime spot on the Venice Beach. Have a “full of patriotic pride” type week.

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