Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The loophole for torture

Loophole for torture ANYONE who reads widely has long known that Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheyney and George Bush have always wanted to be able to torture their enemies to extract from them maximum possible information about potential terrorist threats to the United States.

To do that they needed to have an appearance of high moral conduct towards their enemies while keeping quiet the fact that unknown men in unknown places are being subjected to treatment so brutal that it is indistinguishable from Saddam Hussein's torture chambers or the Spanish Inquisition. Here the prying eyes of the Red Cross never pierce the darkness and the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war is but a joke.

Since the revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib the Administration has to tried to clean up its act sufficiently to calm public fears. That, as we might say in England, is a load of bollocks.

Our new Attorney General elect crafted the clever sidestepping legal advice that made the case for the President to do whatever he likes to captive terrorists in a time of 'war'. And Rummy had no difficulty in making sure it filtered down to the right level while trying to cover its origin in the Oval Office. The show trials of Lynndie England, Jeremy Sivits and now Charles Graner are a neat whitewash to make believe the abuse came only from low level and irresponsible military personnel. Attempts to prove the culture of abuse was spawned from the top only peter out in official obfusfaction.

And even though Mr Alberto Gonzales has gone on record that he abhors torture, his words in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings were carefully measured so that he never actually totally denied his complicity in the Administration's torture policies.

Today's New York Times reveals that whereas the restrictions on prisoner abuse cover the Defense Department they do NOT extend to the CIA. So the military may not torture prisoners but the intelligence community may!

At the end of last year the House and Senate thought they had sufficiently fenced up the White House, to prevent further abuse. It turns out, however, that under Adminstration pressure just four men removed the ultimate safeguards AFTER the bill had been approved on a 96-2 vote. It was sneaky and underhand. Condi Rice, under questioning, used her usual weasel words to wiggle out of the implications of what had been done. (Click the title of this blog to read the NY Time article, or see my previous blog.)

Be sure of this, the United States government has secured for itself locations which are so far outside the law that they can do almost whatever they want with the inmates. But Guantanmo and Abu Ghraib have come under such scrutiny that these places - run by the miltary - are now obliged to restrict the extent of tough treatment to prisoners. This rule does not reach to the CIA's secret locations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

What's the issue? Do we really care if very evil men are treated very badly to make them cough up information? These terrorists are not prisoners of war - they are international criminals; at least, they might be if we applied our usual rules of law and brought them to trial and proved the evidence. But the US could not even build a case against the alleged 20th highjacker of the 9/11 attacks, so it certainly does not want to go public with the three dozen our so men it now holds and tortures in secret.

But do we really care? Yes, because the US should be held to the very highest values of humane and ethical treatment. Yes, because Mr. Right-Wing-Family-Values-Born-Again-Bush, who reads his Bible and prays every day so that God can give him 'gut feelings, should know that the Apostle Paul taught us we should treat overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21). Yes, because our extreme treatment of high value prisoners makes a nonsense of our 'shock' when Muslim extremists cut off the heads of our people before the gaze of the video camera. Yes, because the foreign policy of the present US Government is the main cause of the whole appalling debacle in Iraq and our treatment of prisoners only adds to the contempt that our enemies have for us. Yes, because we expect our leaders not to be two-faced.

Sure, we need to take major steps to defend the United States homeland against further terrorists hits. But we can NEVER beat terrorism at its own game by returning violence with violence. Mr Bush is incapable of getting that. Rummy knows he has screwed up big time, but will not admit it. Doctor Condi Rice knows she advised Mr Bush badly but her only safe haven is inside the White House where she must sing the same tune as her boss. The discredited Cheyney, the gullible believer of the spurious nonsense that Chalabi channeled to him to build a case for war with Iraq can never bring himself to admit he was so wrong about the reasons for war. We have an adminstration locked into being unable to admit its ghastly miscalculations; painted into a corner - while yet pretending to be the paragon of international leadership and freedom.

Rather than taking the big bold steps necessary to be truly great and magnanimous on the world stage, they use artifice, legal evasions and weasel words to obscure the moral baseness of the their treatment of their enemies.

There's nothing original in what I've said. I can do no more than deliver another pin-prick in the hide of an elephant.