Posts Tagged ‘torture’

Where a government sanctions doing this to its prisoners, all the while telling its people that America does not torture:

“For 160 days his only contact was with the interrogators,” said Crawford, who personally reviewed Qahtani’s interrogation records and other military documents. “Forty-eight of 54 consecutive days of 18-to-20-hour interrogations. Standing naked in front of a female agent. Subject to strip searches. And insults to his mother and sister.”

At one point he was threatened with a military working dog named Zeus, according to a military report. Qahtani “was forced to wear a woman’s bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of his interrogation” and “was told that his mother and sister were whores.” With a leash tied to his chains, he was led around the room “and forced to perform a series of dog tricks,” the report shows.

The interrogation, portions of which have been previously described by other news organizations, including The Washington Post, was so intense that Qahtani had to be hospitalized twice at Guantanamo with bradycardia, a condition in which the heart rate falls below 60 beats a minute and which in extreme cases can lead to heart failure and death. At one point Qahtani’s heart rate dropped to 35 beats per minute, the record shows.

Where one of its leading columnists discusses inflicting widespread fear and destruction on a civilian population (a general practice that, if not carried out by a national military force, would be referred to as “terrorism”) as a valid strategic goal to counter the acts of a terrorist group within that population:

Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future.

In Gaza, I still can’t tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to “educate” Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population. If it is out to destroy Hamas, casualties will be horrific and the aftermath could be Somalia-like chaos. If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims.

Of course, this is exactly where George Bush’s America has been for nearly eight full years. Friedman’s latest column might have been titled “Suck. On. This. 2.0”:

These are the leaders of the free world. I sincerely hope things are soon to change.

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If you’re running a detention centre and you want to make use of coercive treatment, sleep deprivation and torture, the important thing is to make sure you do it often and regularly – that way it becomes “an unpleasant, highly regimented experience.” And that’s OK.

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There is enough research evidence about the effects of sleep deprivation to establish beyond doubt that this sort of monkey business is torture. Any government who wants to lecture the rest of the world about liberty and have the rest of the world keep a straight face needs to condemn and eliminate this sort of abuse.

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Moral midgetry

It’s interesting that moral relativism is acceptable for conservative loons – but only when it allows them to defend human rights abuses by the pillar of freedom. The concept of a higher standard does not apply. The notion that there are moral absolutes do not apply. Torture by the United States of America is acceptable because it’s not as bad as the torture done by Saddam Hussein and it’s not as bad as beheading people or flying planes into buildings. And besides, the United States saves the worst torture for the really nasty people.

Here’s an alternative view: for a country to refer to its President as “the leader of the free world”, it should show leadership, particularly in relation to freedom. It should not show contempt for the rule of law. It should not violate the most fundamental principles of treating one’s enemies decently, principles that were codified in response to the worst atrocities of the past century. It should act in a way that is consistent with the principles it argues the dark places of the world need to embrace.

And if it fails in holding to these standards, nobody should be foolish enough to defend it by claiming that there are worse places in the world.

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It’s not just for communists any more.

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Pathetic little boys

playing silly little games – yet they think they are so very clever. The weasels who have thumbed their noses at the US Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and fundamental moral decency are not the slightest bit concerned about screwing around with Congress.

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I have written at Public Polity about Janet Albrechtsen’s latest crusade against the dirty hippie brigade. I want to note a couple of other points that didn’t fit with the issues I addressed in that article.

Albrechtsen’s concerns about “activist judges” deciding how society should operate is nothing new. But in attempting to critique the Boumediene v. Bush decision, Janet draws on some arguments about what the decision could imply for the three branches of government that are frightfully flawed. Let’s begin with the notion that:

As The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto noted, for all the wailing about the evils of Gitmo, “perhaps decades from now we will learn that detainees ended up being abused in some far-off place because the Government closed Guantanamo in response to judicial meddling. Even those who support what the court did today may live to regret it.”

The suggestion is that the Government may respond to a judgment against them by engaging in even shadier practices. Given the Bush administration’s history, it is entirely plausible that this could happen – or more precisely, that it could happen even more than it has in the past. But that doesn’t mean it’s a valid criticism of the judicial decision. It means that the United States has a toxic executive branch that has nothing but contempt for the Constitution.

The second notion Janet draws on is that:

… as Chief Justice John Roberts concluded, the majority’s decision was no win for democracy. Stripping Congress of power, the American people lost “a bit more control over the conduct of this nation’s foreign policy to unelected, politically unaccountable judges”.

Appeals to democracy might have an inherent appeal, but the fact is that the judiciary was given exactly the kind of power it exercised in this case. The Constitution is the foundation legal document of the country, and it is the Supreme Court’s responsibility to protect the integrity of that Constitution. Judicial review of the actions of the other branches of government was always part of the system, and it is a sad indictment of America’s politicised judiciary that the highest judge in the land would fail to say so.

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Damning evidence:

Former terrorist suspects detained by the United States were tortured, according to medical examinations detailed in a report released Wednesday by a human rights group.

The Massachusetts-based Physicians for Human Rights reached that conclusion after two-day clinical evaluations of 11 former detainees, who had been held at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan.

The detainees were never charged with crimes.

The report is prefaced by retired U.S. Major Gen. Antonio Taguba, who led the Army’s investigation into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in 2003.

“There is no longer any doubt that the current administration committed war crimes,” Taguba says. “The only question is whether those who ordered torture will be held to account.”

The report is available here.

The argument that invading and occupying Iraq is justified because it ended the human rights abuses of a brutal dictator becomes ever shakier as this type of evidence emerges. The only hope for redemption is, as Taguba implies, for the United States to demonstrate its government and justice system are capable of bringing those responsible to justice.

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Do not torture

Keith Olbermann has something to say:

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So, it looks like the United States Congress is going to approve the appointment as Attorney-General of someone who refuses to state that an “interrogation technique” used by the Spanish Inquisition and the Khmer Rouge is torture.

But the good news is that 69% of Americans think waterboarding is torture. Yay! Except that 29% don’t. And isn’t it a bit unsettling that we even need to have polls about this kind of thing?

But it’s all okay anyway, because Andrew Bolt told us over the weekend that “only three” people have been subject to waterboarding by the United States anyway. And he’s opposed to torture – but it’s only torture of four or more people that is problematic. Besides, the torture might have been useful:

I disapprove of torture, yet would also like to know exactly why this waterboarding was used on these three suspects, and what, if any, harm to civilians was thereby prevented. Just so that we know exactly all the factors at play in what has already been hyped out of all proportion to reality.

Shorter Bolt: I disapprove of torture, unless it’s used on people who might be evil to prevent evil things from happening.

Torture is wrong. The humane treatment of all people, including prisoners and suspected criminals, should be a central principle of any liberal democracy. If the United States is going to exhort other nations around the world to grant their people democracy and freedom, they need to model a fundamental commitment to human rights and the rule of law.

Still, it’s good to know that Bolt disapproves of the senseless torture of innocent people. That’s a start.

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