Thursday, April 23, 2009

How Dick Cheney Doesn't Get It


Khuk Khak, Thailand - "But it worked!"

That's like saying genocide works. To claim that the expedient means, regardless of their inhumanity, are irrelevant to the pursuit of an objective. Hitler's extermination policies were working, too.

To employ a rationale of the efficacy of torture to justify its use is simply blind to international standards and protocols of prisoner treatment. Bush, Mr. Cheney, Ms. Rice, Mr. Rumsfeld, and legal counsel to the President are all complicit in the development of a policy the Geneva Conventions declare as cruel, inhumane, and degrading.

The ICRC (International Committee for Red Cross) humanitarian standards of prisoner treatment established by the HCHR (High Commission for Human Rights) Geneva Conventions, of which the U.S. is one of 194 signatories, were adopted as international humanitarian law to prevent the government of any nation or state from abuse, and imposing arbitrary measures of treatment of captives. Our leaders broke those laws.

They broke those laws, and somebody is a war criminal.

Was there a crime?

Part I, General Provisions:

'to all persons who are captured by the enemy'

There are no creative distinctions of 'enemy combatant' or 'detainee'. If you are captured by the enemy during a war, you are a prisoner of war. Everybody knows that. It is clear.

Article 13

'Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention.'

'Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.'

'They shall at all times be humanely treated and protected, particularly against acts of violence, from insults and from public curiosity.'

'No pressure shall be exercised on prisoners to obtain information regarding the situation in their armed forces or their country. Prisoners who refuse to reply may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasantness or disadvantages of any kind whatsoever.'

Art. 26. 'In the event of transfer, prisoners of war shall be officially informed in advance of their new destination;

Art. 42. 'Prisoners of war shall have the right to bring to the notice of the military authorities, in whose hands they are, their petitions concerning the conditions of captivity to which they are subjected.'

Art. 54. 'Imprisonment is the most severe disciplinary punishment which may be inflicted on a prisoner of war.'

Article 87

'Prisoners of war may not be sentenced by the military authorities and courts of the Detaining Power to any penalties except those provided for in respect of members of the armed forces of the said Power who have committed the same acts.'

'Collective punishment for individual acts, corporal punishments, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty, are forbidden.'


In the numerous meetings between members of the Bush administration and the legal advisors who subsequently crafted a new language around new 'enhanced interrogation techniques' to circumvent international law, wasn't there anyone in that whole circle of smart people to ask, "Isn't this a war crime? Wouldn't we be war criminals?"

I'll bet somebody did.

'No, Sir. It would not constitute war crime as we define it.'

Do you think there were any pauses to reflect, any moments of grim silence, as the gravity of the policy sank in, or do you think they just pressed ahead?

We knew it was going on all along, and we didn't stop it. Torture is torture, regardless of how it's defined or to what ends its use is employed. We didn't stop it until the election, and its magnitude has only become center-stage because of the recent disclosure of a mere fragment of the record.

In addition to having an unwanted war rammed down our throats, the American people must now acknowledge and accept our embrace of torture. Even if you personally find the policy repugnant, or acceptable for a nation's security, it was nonetheless conducted in our names on a world stage.

'Enhanced interrogation techniques,' framed in a legal word game, a Texas hoe-down shuffle, premised upon a re-definition of prisoner of war. If they aren't that, then new rules apply, and the new rules say we can torture.

Yes, without question, crimes have been committed. Who shall be held accountable? Who are the war criminals?

Mr. Cheney, there is no rationale for torture or inhuman treatment of captives. Torture is indefensible. Abiding by international humanitarian law allows us the liberty to advance human rights as a global leader. Adherence to it is what distinguishes us from barbarians.