Torture is wrong, illegal and ineffective – do we really need to debate this?

 In Bush Administration, Cheney, Congress, Obama Administration, torture

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Apparently we do. Last week’s release of the Senate report on CIA torture, er “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” provoked a quite a media storm, including Dick Cheney and other Bush-league torture apologists and enablers defending not just their actions in the past, but the possible use of torture in the future.

While more information will presumably be forthcoming (it was only the executive summary that was released), a key issue for the peace and human rights advocacy community, and presumably for our country, is what steps should be taken now.

There are two main approaches being floated, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on which Peace Action ought to emphasize, or tell us your own ideas using the comments section below this post.

-Legislative clarification/remedy – while torture is already illegal under U.S. and international law (and the U.S. is bound by the United Nations Convention Against Torture), some members of Congress think further clarification or specification on what constitutes torture and what is and isn’t allowable in “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” could be beneficial.

-Call for Accountability/Prosecution – the only official in jail as a consequence of the CIA torture program is whistleblower John Kiriakou. Briefly stated, they got the wrong guy. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Rice, Brennan, Yoo and company are the ones who should have to face the music, or at least prosecution. While I didn’t agree with President Obama’s 2009 decision not to pursue prosecutions, I understood the political calculation he made at the time.

But he certainly could reverse that decision now. While it’s extremely unlikely he will, it would be a righteous act in the final two years of his presidency, and it’s really not optional, under the Convention Against Torture the U.S. has a duty to prosecute torturers, as several UN officials noted last week.

Personally, I favor the option of calling for accountability and prosecution over a legislative approach as I fear opening up the issue of torture to becoming even more of a political football, but I could support legislation if congressional leaders made a strong case for it, and if there is a likelihood it would pass in the new Congress, which is no sure thing. A bill that failed to pass might be worse than not trying at all. On a conference call last Friday of some key Peace Action affiliate and chapter leaders, there was a consensus on the demand for prosecution rather than legislative approach.

I’d love to hear what you think, so again feel free to use the comments box below.

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Showing 5 comments
  • Anonymous

    I would like to see every one of the people mentioned above prosecuted. I think it would get large public support.

  • Anonymous

    Regarding some people’s desire to make “specific” what measures are “torture”: I would like 2 see every one of those mentioned subjected to waterboarding, nudity w/cold, hooded standing w/arms out, w/guns pressed into their heads & attack dogs barking — then they should tell us if they feel this is torture or not.

  • Melvin Mackey

    The argument made by the CIA, Cheney, et. al.; that if torture is effective it is OK would suggest that if water boarding Cheney caused him to recant, then it would also be OK.

    I think not!

  • Jerry "Peacemaker"

    Torture was used to violently coerce false confessions of terrorist guilt for carrying out 9/11, thereby aiding the coverup of an inside job, plus eliciting the false witness “corroborating” Bush administration lies about a Saddam – al Qaeda connection, thereby giving the Bush admin cover for starting the catastrophic Iraq War.

  • Nancy L Cowger

    Absolutely, prosecute, any and all of those responsible for approving, ordering or turning a blind eye to this travesty of human depravity. .

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