promoting the unwanted, redheaded stepchild that is individual liberty

A policy of torture

In foreign policy, liberty and rights, war and peace on March 3, 2010 at 12:35 am

Evidence of U.S. torture is continuing to mount. What at first seemed as an isolated incident at Abu Ghraib is now appearing to be policy. Obama, like Bush before him, is concealing evidence, protecting torturers and ignoring the continued use of torture.

On Feb. 10, a British court ordered its government to release evidence about a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who says he was tortured while in U.S. custody.

Binyam Mohamed, 31, says he was beaten, subject to sleep deprivation, shackled and had his genitals sliced with a scalpel.

The Obama administration has continually tried to suppress the proof of Mohamed’s torture — even threatening to withhold future intelligence information from British government at the expense of public safety if evidence of Mohamed’s were to be released.

How long will the American people sit back and let torture be committed in their name?

  1. Jessica,

    Com’on, what’s the WHOLE story. You (or the defendant) say ” says he was beaten, subject to sleep deprivation, shackled and had his genitals sliced with a scalpel.”

    For sure using a scalpel on genitals sounds like torture. Sleep deprivation and shackles/restraints does not pass muster for me. “Beatings” is far too vague as well. Is a slap in the face if he spits on a guard a “beating” or was he hung by his thumbs and beaten with a club or cattle prods?

    Whatever was done to him was the old “who did it”. He was in the custody of Pakistanis, and others it seems. What are the details of such custody and who did what during those periods is obviously in question.

    It seems to me that “rendition” is the case where the US has custody, cannot obtain important information and chooses to send the captive to someone else that will torture to obtain information. The key is we had him then sent him to another country.

    If instead the other country “had him” before we obtained custody, exactly what controls should the US impose on the captive after the fact? Even if we knowlingly “let them keep him until….” the legal issues of intent, etc would be very difficult to prove in court.

    I am not trying to provide “excuses”, just simply asking about the details before I leap to a judgment call on this specific issue. I oppose TORTURE but challenge anyone’s ability to define it legally. Obviously when knives and electric shock instruments are used on the human body to gain information, it is easy to call.

    And even if such instruments are used, I need to know why? If a nuclear weapon is about to go off in NYC, I may have second thoughts. The “success” of the torture in prevention of the deaths of hundreds of thousands becomes a moral issue of great debate, at least to me.


  2. Jessica, you have given the whole story, to the extent that it is known. You have stated that addition evidence (which could potentially exonerate some parties) is being withheld. Torture was official U.S. policy for a period. Rendition to countries which used torture was U.S. policy for a period. Whether that period resulted in torture of Binyam Mohamed is not known. It is in the public interest and for the public good that the whole story be provided to us.

    The Bush administration asserted that rendition countries were required to comply with U.S. policy. That fiction was exposed several years ago. The U.S. government was utterly hypocritical in claiming a degree of U.S. control while actually exposing prisoners to ‘enhanced’ techniques of other countries.

    It is futile to assert that excuses are not what they accomplish in being offered. It is worthless to oppose an atrocity while avoiding responsibility to accept defined (by the U.S. government) aspects of that atrocity.

    If we have to wait for a definition that is imagined to be unavailable, we should also wait, before trading false security for our liberties, for something which has never been demonstrated: the efficacy of torture.

  3. Hmmmm? “It is worthless to oppose an atrocity while avoiding responsibility to accept defined (by the U.S. government) aspects of that atrocity.”

    Is that the same as saying, “I can’t legally define the word but I will punish you for committing an atrocity”. You could add, “I know what an atrocity is whether you agree with me or not, legally”.

    I read all the time about atrocious acts committed by humans against others and they are totally exonerated for various reasons in our system of justice. We all know what rape, murder, child abuse, etc entail. No agrument over definitions, just the “proof” of the act.

    But you want to “crucify” folks for undefined, legally, acts with which you disagree? Com’on. That is not the way any rule of law works. You first have to write the law.

    Thus I await your proposal for a law and the conditions under which such law applies. Please keep in mind the nuclear weapons scenario above.


  4. My statement was correctly clipped and pasted, but the meaning was ignored. Especially note the phrase “defined (by the U.S. government)”. I have never referred to an undefined act.

    The U.S. ratified the UN Convention Against Torture, which includes a definition. That definition has been central to the examinations of the conduct of Yoo, Gonzales, et al. Yoo has described how he advocated White House policy on torture, against Justice Department guidelines and in contradiction to prior law.

    Much of this is a matter of record. Gonzales could not remember, while under oath, anything significant to include in the record. A substantial (not complete) summary of the “Torture Memos” affair, in which Yoo provided tainted participation, is at: [].

  5. then why in the world did a learned (though admittedly conservative) justice say publicly (on 60 minutes) “I am against torture if you can define it for me.”


  6. I will see your uncited mystery justice and raise a named President of the United States. President Reagan had no doubt that a practicable definition of torture was available when he transmitted the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to the Senate for ratification.

    The U.S., under various administrations, has used this as the principal guide to our policies since ratification. The only exception was a period (for convenience, known as the Yoo-Gonzales period) when the Bush administration diverged from established practices. The Yoo-Gonzales period was ended during the Bush administration. The Bush administration subsequently chose to expouse the prior standards. Refer to ‘U.S. signs UN convention against torture’ [] and ‘Is Waterboarding Torture?’ [].

    The irrelevant answers to the irrelevant question posed are: Why in the world do learned Nobel laureates believe all sorts of hooey? Why do Electronics Engineers suspect that global warming is a vast conspiracy to further deprive Big Oil of its meager business? Why do millions of people who watched 9-11 events live, on TV, believe something happened utterly different from what they witnessed? Why do millions of people believe that, despite highly accurate internal clocks providing time measurements of millions and billions of years, ancient materials are only 6,000 years old as God told them?

  7. Jim,

    One last shot then I am through and agree that we disagree.

    Show me an action taken by a member of goverment that you consider to be torture the show me the law that specifically outlaws that action. No legal tomes, no interpretations, no foreigh interpretations or even domestic ones, just the law itself.

    I am sure you will not find “waterboarding is illegal”. So again, show me the law, pure and simple.


  8. Ipps, sorry. The learned justice was Supreme Court Justice Scalia in a 60 minute interview with the older blond lady. It was maybe a year ago and got a lot of play. If you can find it, take note of the look on her face when he responded to her question with the above answer. She looked like he had passed gas.


  9. When hucksters play the shell game, they usually take advantage (ask my magician friends) of its easily-manipulated aspects to separate the marks from their money.

    We now have an utterly different presentation of the Old Game. First, we are shown the shells and told that there is a pea under one. Then we ask to see the pea. We show the bagful of peas which we carry. They are ignored. We are told – scolded, in fact – that peeking is not tolerated and that we, the audience, must prove that, despite what was claimed, the pea isn’t there. Then, a shell is lifted to reveal what was requested: a pea.

    This new presentation goes beyond mere honesty. It gives the game away, completely. It is never a winning strategy for the huckster.

    In plain language:

    One of the specific laws relevant to this discussion (and implemented under Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama) has been cited without rebuttal.

    The demand for “no interpretations” was preceded (and followed!) by the INTERPRETATION of someone who, with other justices, has said that such comments are not legally binding, authoritative, or relevant. It is standard practice (especially cited in confirmation hearings: Alito, Roberts, Sotomayor, etc.) to defer from answering hypothetical questions. The law often turns upon narrow points in specific cases.

  10. I rest my case. You can cite no law against torture. Thus how do you propose to enforce such a nonexistant law. NOW I am through arguing.


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