I’m taking my cues from Scott Horton of Harper’s Magazine by promoting an effort to get the candidates to commit to an absolute anti-torture policy.
Call the presidential candidates now.
INSIST: “No Torture. No Exceptions.”
“No Torture. No Exceptions” means:
- Reaffirming America’s commitment to existing federal laws and international treaties that ban torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under all circumstances.
- Renouncing all legal interpretations and executive orders that redefine torture and permit such acts as sensory or sleep deprivation, stress positions, sexual humiliation, mock executions.
- Enforcing full transparency of information about how America treats any and all detainees held by our personnel and those in our employ anywhere in the world.
- Rejecting and abolishing the practice of rendering detainees abroad.
- Establishing a single standard of interrogation procedures to apply to all persons held in U.S. custody or by those under U.S. control, whether C.I.A., military, or civilian.
- Treating our detainees as we would have others treat detained Americans.
Yet, look at the so-called Party of Lincoln now.
Plenty of arguments are bandied about taking a stance against torture. John McCain once said we shouldn’t do it because it doesn’t work and it opens the door to American soldiers being tortured. Another writer says Americans committing torture “drive(s) those undecideds into the arms of the enemy.”
The reason we should not torture is because it is morally wrong. The act renders us hypocrites. Committing torture is an aberration. Torture is a crime against the innocent and the alleged guilty. How many detainees have been found legally guilty before they were tortured? It flies in the face of a justice system that holds up the notion of “innocent until proven guilty.” Torture victimizes whoever suffers it. To a much lesser extent it victimizes the individuals performing it institutionally as a duty. An institution that manages and euphemizes torture should be held accountable for crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. President Bush’s effort at semantically getting around the notion of torture with phrases like enhanced interrogation would be farcical if the ramifications of the act weren’t so horrific. Torture is wrong and doing it negates whatever claim we make about our values (life, liberty, law, and the pursuit of happiness, justice, etc).
I reject an argument against torture that pleads: torturing should not be done because it empowers an enemy. I reject McCain’s old argument that we shouldn’t do it because the enemy will do it to us. (McCain now qualifies the use of torture: He believes it shouldn’t happen to Americans, but the CIA can use it on non-citizens.)
Torture should not be done because it is an abomination. Torturing betrays the notion of virtue in Western philosophy, Eastern thought, and in every relevant religious tradition. Furthermore, torture is illegal in the United States as our government has ratified the Geneva Conventions as law of our land.
As for the debate where a Republican presidential candidate said, “we should have more Guantanamos,” the rush to embrace torture was a candid shot of the unraveling of the Grand Old Party. You can’t relish human suffering and expect to retain respectable footing in the human condition…even in America.
Amrit Singh at the Huffingpost writes about an Egyptian Christian, Sameh Khouzam who fled religious persecution in Egypt only to discover that the United States government is going to deport him — even after a U.S. federal appeals court found that “it is more likely than not that he will be tortured.” The government claims it is relying on “diplomatic assurances” from Egyptian officials that Sameh will not be tortured.
The Convention Against Torture was ratified as U.S. law in 1994. It prohibits the U.S. government from transferring a person “to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”
We as Americans have allowed ourselves to be compromised as we commit to the Torture doctrine through indifference, ignorance, and blind acceptance that now, suddenly, torture is useful in the war on terror. Bush has made the so-called War on Terror a war of terror.
I have railed against torture on my own websites and others since I first suspected power had run amok. That’s when I saw John Walker Lindh looking like Jesus strapped to a cross during his detention in Afghanistan. I’ve written news stories to draw attention to this abomination against the human spirit. I will not stop my condemnation of torture until my country regains its senses and sensibility, until torture is viewed properly as criminal. I’ve decided to devote a page to my outrage on this website and will update it as I’m so moved.
- Click on www.rejecttorture.org to join the national initiative to Reject Torture, and pass it on to your friends and acquaintances
- Call each and every presidential candidate now. Insist: “No Torture. No Exceptions.”
John McCain: Phone: (202) 224-2235 Fax: (202) 228-2862
Barack Obama: Phone: (202) 224-2854 Fax: (202) 228-4260
Hillary Clinton: Phone: (202) 224-4451 Fax: (202) 228-0282