Wednesday, April 01, 2009

America the Torturer

Though difficult reading for some, I highly recommend a review by Mark Danner of the ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen "High Value Detainees" in CIA Custody.
Danner uses the report by the International Committee of the Red Cross - "whose official and legally recognized duties is to monitor compliance with the Geneva Conventions and to supervise treatment of prisoners of war" - to engage in a broader discussion of the Bush administration and its stance on torture and what it means.

The U.S. did torture, that is made clear.
Were those tortured terrible men? Yes, in this case, the mostly were.
Should they have been tortured? That is the important question and one which is briefly, but usefully, explored in this review.
Oh,before we embrace typical Canadian smugness regarding our neighbours to the south, do not forget how we have been complicit in the torturing of people- innocent people even.

My stance can be inferred from the three excerpted passages below.
"The use of torture deprives the society whose laws have been so egregiously violated of the possibility of rendering justice. Torture destroys justice. Torture in effect relinquishes this sacred right in exchange for speculative benefits whose value is, at the least, much disputed."

"For all the talk of ticking bombs, very rarely, if ever, have officials been able to point to information gained by interrogating prisoners with "enhanced techniques" that enabled them to prevent an attack that had reached its "operational stage" (that is, had gone beyond reconnoitering and planning). Still, widespread perception that such techniques have prevented attacks, actively encouraged by the President and other officials, has been politically essential in letting the administration carry on with these policies after they had largely become public. Polls tend to show that a majority of Americans are willing to support torture only when they are assured that it will "thwart a terrorist attack." Because of the political persuasiveness of such scenarios it is vital that a future inquiry truly investigate claims that attacks have been prevented."

"The political damage to the United States' reputation, and to the "soft power" of its constitutional and democratic ideals, has been, though difficult to quantify, vast and enduring. In a war that is essentially an insurgency fought on a worldwide scale—which is to say, a political war, in which the attitudes and allegiances of young Muslims are the critical target of opportunity—the United States' decision to use torture has resulted in an enormous self-administered defeat, undermining liberal sympathizers of the United States and convincing others that the country is exactly as its enemies paint it: a ruthless imperial power determined to suppress and abuse Muslims. By choosing to torture, we freely chose to become the caricature they made of us."
(wouldn't it be nice if this were just an April Fool's joke? Sigh)


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