Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Impeach The Torturers

Have we experienced so much horror in the past seven years, that we all engage in a collective yawn when the Executive Branch admits openly to sanctioning torture?
WASHINGTON - The White House on Wednesday defended the use of the interrogation technique known as waterboarding, saying it is legal — not torture as critics argue — and has saved American lives.

President Bush could authorize waterboarding for future terrorism suspects if certain criteria are met, a spokesman said.

A day earlier, the Bush administration acknowledged publicly for the first time that the tactic was used by U.S. government questioners on three terror suspects. Testifying before Congress, CIA Director Michael Hayden said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubayda and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were waterboarded in 2002 and 2003.

Waterboarding involves strapping a suspect down and pouring water over his cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning. It has been traced back hundreds of years, to the Spanish Inquisition, and is condemned by nations around the world.

Via Andrew Sullivan, of all people, we're reminded that the Bush Administration is using the exact same argument for "enhanced interrogation techniques" as Nazi commanders who were eventually convicted as war criminals.

The victims, by the way, were not in uniform. And the Nazis tried to argue, just as John Yoo did, that this made torturing them legit. The victims were paramilitary Norwegians, operating as an insurgency, against an occupying force. And the torturers had also interrogated some prisoners humanely. But the argument, deployed by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Nazis before them, didn't wash with the court. Money quote:

As extenuating circumstances, Bruns had pleaded various incidents in which he had helped Norwegians, Schubert had pleaded difficulties at home, and Clemens had pointed to several hundred interrogations during which he had treated prisoners humanely.

The Court did not regard any of the above-mentioned circumstances as a sufficient reason for mitigating the punishment and found it necessary to act with the utmost severity. Each of the defendants was responsible for a series of incidents of torture, every one of which could, according to Art. 3 (a), (c) and (d) of the Provisional Decree of 4th May, 1945, be punished by the death sentence.

It's revolting to ponder how many hands are dirty in this dark episode of U.S. history. So many branches and offices of government, that I fear accountability will be escaped because of the mass participation. Yet another symptom of 9/11 Fever that exposed a country's moral compass wrought with vengeance and fear.

Perhaps the international community will again exert their can only hope. Torture is never acceptable.

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