Tuesday, June 26, 2007

We do not torture (depending on who defines "torture")

Bush lied to American high school students about whether we are engaged in torturing detainees. Fifty high school honors students presented him with a petition:
"We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants."
Of course, he pretended that their fears have no foundation. (via Andrew Sullivan).

Bush refuses to level with the American people about what he is doing on their behalf, insisting instead on tortured definitions of "torture" and "abuse," intentionally vague pronouncements of our principles, and straight-out dishonesty. We have become a laughingstock and continue to lose the respect of the international community, preaching human rights to our enemies while disappearing others to secret prisons or handing them over to countries we know will torture them. We say "no torture" but we mean "nothing equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." We claim that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were a mistake, but we fire anybody who takes investigation of its genesis seriously. We deride international law while claiming its support whenever it is to our advantage. We hope that President Bush's embrace of torture (and shallow euphemisms for torture like "enhanced interrogation techniques") is an aberration, but Republican candidates for President all jockey to see who is most pro-torture. Only the chosen scapegoats in the lowest ranks of the military receive any punishment.

Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald takes issue with a New York Times Op-Ed by U.S. Air Force Col. Morris D. Davis, the chief prosecutor in the Defense Department's Office of Military Commissions, which relies in large part on the coerced statement extracted as a condition for releasing former Australian Guanatamo Bay detainee David Hicks, which stated that he had not been abused. Greenwald takes you step-by-step through just how dishonest this argument is, and summarizes it thusly:
So, to recap: we imprison someone for life with no charges, muffle their claims that they were tortured in captivity, agree to let them go after five years provided they sign a statement "stipulating" they were treated properly and vow to remain silent about the mistreatment to which they were subjected, and then send military official parading in public, waving the signed "stipulation" around in the air as proof of the sterling, professional and humane conditions at Guantanamo.
Greenwald, author of one of my favorite recent books, How Would a Patriot Act, has authored a new book, "A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency," which was released today. An excerpt can be read here.

Finally, Part 3 of the Washington Post's four-part series on Vice President Dick Cheney can be read here. Part 1. Part 2.


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