Thursday, November 17, 2005

Torture Redux

For years (ok my whole life) prior to this Bush administration, I never considered torture an issue. I do not remember the Vietnam War and Gulf War I didnt really seem like war in the traditional sense (few POWs, POWs grateful to be caught, no POW terrorist allegations, never used the term 'unlawful combatant'). I assumed like most high school/college students that US followed the Geneva Convention against torture. Moreover, I was taught US held the moral authority against torture.

Briefly the arguments we may have been taught: United States seeks to be the standard by which other countries judge their own actions; we dont want our soldiers to be victims and perhaps if we dont torture, our enemies wont torture; finally, can democracy really prevail when torture is permitted against enemies (which can be defined as anyone in the minority of the democracy)?

Fast forward to this week's news. Newsweek has cover story about torture featuring John McCain, the Senate continues its debate on the prohibition of torture, cruelty, and inhumane treatment, and Iraq military is accused of torturing Sunni captives in Baghdad. Iraq Minister says that last bit is exaggerated "saying only a handful showed signs of abuse." Oh good, I feel better.

McCain poignantly balances the intelligence community needs with the reality of using this methods to gather the intelligence. It simply doesnt work. The administration demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature in assuming cruel interrogation techniques will make the US safer. From McCain's website: "Nevertheless, the administration has held that the prohibition does not legally apply to foreigners held overseas. They can, apparently, be treated inhumanely. This means that America is the only country in the world that asserts a legal right to engage in cruel and inhumane treatment. What this also means is that confusion about the rules becomes rampant again. With this simple amendment, we can restore clarity on a simple and fundamental question: Does America treat people inhumanely? My answer is no, and from all I’ve seen, America’s answer has always been no"

I will even give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt that they are not purposely trying to anger me with this issue, they sincerely believe it will help. Two issues remain, what about our international obligations under the Geneva Convention AND the safety and wellbeing of our captured soldiers?

This administration has shown contempt against all things related to international obligations (germ warfare, aid for poor, Kyoto treaty, ICC jursidiction over peacekeepers. The United States has a history of rejecting anything that smacks of foreign control over American policy. The Geneva Convention was different.
In order to protect our soldiers, the United States must follow the spirit and wording of the Geneva Convention against Torture. In order for our values to spread, we must be the standard against which other countries judge, we must not carve out niches for opportunities for torture.

I would like this issue to go away again so that my children do not have to know a United States that would seek to torture in their name for their security.

No comments: