Saturday, November 12, 2005

"We Do Not Torture" (Bush)--But we claim and the reserve the right to do so (Cheney)

A very important article on the US torture debate by Michael Ratner from the Center for Constitutional Rights and one of the leading defenders of the tortured over the last few decades. A couple juicy quotes:
The idea that torture could be so publicly defensible -- and the news that the United States is maintaining secret facilities in former Soviet-era prisons for torturing nameless and disappeared people -- fills me with shame and horror.

All the fictions that sustained the war on terror -- that abuses were one-time mistakes by low-level grunts; that the rules about human rights weren't clear; that soldiers didn't understand the parameters when they beat and humiliated and tortured prisoners -- have been replaced by a clear declaration: The United States is going to torture people as it sees fit, to subject them to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment wherever and whenever it decides to.

Typically, this article appears in Spiegel and not the US media.

Meanwhile, another very important article, from Ken Silverstein in the LA Times, entitled "U.S., Jordan Forge Closer Ties in Covert War on Terrorism." (Amazingly, it showed up today on the front page of our local paper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.) It tells us, among other things, that "Jordan has emerged as a hub for 'extraordinary renditions,' the controversial, covert transfer of suspected extremists from U.S. custody to foreign intelligence agencies." Since we still have some qualms about torture and especially extreme torture, we routinely "render" suspects to countries like Jordan or Syria or Egypt for the really heavy duty stuff.
Although the Israeli Mossad is commonly considered the CIA's closest ally in the region, [ex-CIA officer Michael] Scheuer and others interviewed said that the GID [Jordan's General Intelligence Directorate] is as capable and professional as the Mossad — and as an Arab nation, Jordan is more effective combating predominantly Arab militant organizations.

Over the years, several of my friends and acquaintances have suffered torture at the hands of various states in the Middle East (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt), and in most cases it was due to non-violent political activity. (The other cases involved those caught with illegal drugs.) So I have never been a big fan of the practice. And now, with our own increasingly rampant and blatant practice of torture, I am not only ashamed and horrified, like Ratner, but also fearful of the deeply corrupting and immoral effects it will have on our own society. The practice will, no doubt, spread and grow and mutate like a virus from Abu Ghraib and the secret holding cells in Rumania and Gitmo into our own heartland.

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