George W. Bush’s Tortured Defense Of Torture

Torture American Style

"For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions. " - Article I, paragraph 1 of the Convention Against Torture ratified by the United States on April 18, 1988.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture released its State Report for the United States on May 18, 2006. In an 11-page indictment of the United States the Committee laid bare America’s loss of moral authority in the world. The report was a product of the 36th session of the Committee Against Torture. Of the 7 countries reviewed during the session only the United States provided a written defense of its torture policies to the Committee. More so than the Committee report the written response of the United States demonstrates that the United States has been engaged in a systematic campaign of torture since the attacks of September 11, 2001. The report and the American response shed light on a shameful chapter in American history.

 The American defense of torture is based on four pillars of argument:

  1. The United States defines torture differently than the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
  2. The Convention Against Torture does not apply during times of armed conflict.
  3. The Convention Against Torture only applies to the United States when it commits torture on the territory of the United States.
  4. Kidnapping and disappearance perpetrated by the United States do not constitute torture.

 The Committee report indicts the United States on the following grounds:

  • The United States should ensure that psychological torture be defined according to the Convention and not according to the U.S. contention that only "prolonged mental harm" constitutes torture. The definition of torture in the Convention clearly states that torture is defined as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession."
  • The Committee cites articles 1 and 16 of the Convention that states that the Convention Against Torture applies at all times and not only during peacetime as the United States has contended. The United States had made the absurd assertion that only the "law of armed conflict" should apply during wars and that applying the Convention Against Torture would "result in an overlap of the different treaties which would undermine the objective of eradicating torture".
  • The Committee clarified to the United States that the Convention applies to all territories (including Guantanamo Bay) under the control of the United States, and not only on acts of torture committed by the United States within the borders of the United States. The United States has used this absurd geographical limitation as a basis for perpetrating torture on detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere around the world.
  • The Committee chastised the United States for not registering some prisoners and hiding them from international observers. This tactic effectively removes all safeguards against torture.
  • The Committee noted that secret detention facilities run by the United States without any international oversight violate the Convention Against Torture. The United States response to the Committee’s inquiry was a "no comment" and is a tacit admission of guilt by the United States.
  • The Committee pointed out the obvious fact lost upon the United States that enforced disappearances of persons by the United States is a violation of the Convention Against Torture.
  • The Committee informed the United States that extraordinary rendition of persons to countries known to commit torture puts the United States in violation of the Convention Against Torture. This clever sleight of hand by the United States does not absolve it of its responsibilities under the Convention.
  • The Committee noted that the indefinite detention of persons at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere is a violation of the Convention Against Torture. The Committee recommended that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility be closed to bring the United States into compliance with the Convention.
  • The Committee pointed out that techniques such as "waterboarding", use of dogs and "short shackling" that have led to deaths are a violation of the Convention Against Torture. The United States had argued rather bizarrely that cruel and inhuman punishment is not necessarily torture.

The United States has come a long way from the Clinton days when our biggest moral dilemma was whether or not fallatio constituted sex. The fact that the United States finds itself in the untenable position of arguing that it does not torture on tortured definitions of the word "torture" and geographical jurisdiction of the Convention should give all citizens pause. Our Government is essentially arguing that torturing someone on foreign soil is not torture. Our Government is arguing that the word "torture" can be defined so that most torture (like beating a man until he dies) can be construed as not being "torture". Our Government is arguing that kidnapping someone so that they disappear from the face of this planet is not torture because the person is now a non-person and no one can hear his or her screams. Our Government is arguing that if a bear shits in the woods and no one is there to see it, the bear did not in fact shit in the woods. Our Government is arguing that we can only torture someone if we are at peace with him or her. If we declare war on someone we are free to stick baseball bats up their asses to our hearts’ content and be safe in the delusion that we are not torturing them.

Our Government has lost its collective mind when it comes to torture. Is it any wonder that we are losing hearts and minds in the War on Terror? By our condoning of torture, by our tortured defense of torture, by our complete lack of humanity we are now viewed in the world as a rogue state. This must end.

For centuries the United States has been a beacon of hope for people fleeing torture and persecution. For centuries the wretched of the earth have pointed to the United States and said, "there, that is where there is hope; that is where there is justice." For centuries people have come to our shores with wounds emotional and physical and we have given them shelter and given them solace. We cannot be the great country we have been, the shining example to the World of human dignity and human achievement, if we allow our Government to torture and destroy all that this country has stood for.

This must end. This must end now. We, the people of the United States of America, must say in one voice to our Government that We do not torture. You will not torture, not in Our name. This must end now.

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20 Responses to George W. Bush’s Tortured Defense Of Torture

  1. Ingrid says:

    Mash, this comes back to the thing I have noted many times as something that ‘hits’ any outsider coming to the US, namely the theme ‘the end justifies the means’. I have seen it on tv in disccusions, online discussions, films, tv shows, mentality abounding, in oh so many subtle and not so subtle ways.
    It is also part of a bigger theme; we are above all reproach. And I bet you that many Americans will actually go along with this because after all ‘weren’t we attacked in the first place’?
    If you were to point out that nothing happens in a vacuum and that many terrorists acts are a response to things, known and unknown (as in, not discussed in the mainstream media here), you are brushed off as an apologist or a conspiracy nut (gone are the days one could actually be a conspiracy theorist).
    Sad thing is, this ‘news’ will not get the masses off their duffs to protest or the media wont’ have a field day with this as they had with Clinton’s affair with Ms Lewinsky.
    Incidentally, he recuped just fine and is actually in town to do a graduation speech at University of Texas. This disturbing news I fear will blow over as well. In a way you’d think..hmm, it was probably a good thing that some prisoners at Guantanamo rose up to fight back..it’s not as if they are all guilty as charged…it’s shameful indeed.
    Ingrid

  2. Kel says:

    Mash,

    Great blog. Only learned of you through your link on Crooks and Liars.

    Stunning article on Bush’s tortured logic.

    I’m going to link to you at The Osterley Times.

  3. Mash says:

    Kel, thank you. I appreciate the link (and just visited your blog and will certainly be frequenting it). Its a shame that the US is now in this indefensible position. I do hope this starts changing in November.

  4. Aunty Ism says:

    Alfred W. McCoy gave an interview on Latenight Live, I think it was in March, about torture and its consequences. Hementioned the 1963 KUBARK CIA “interrogatin” manual and how these same techniques are being used and abused beyond the offical recommendations today. Here’s a link on KUBARK:
    http://www.totse.com/en/politics/central_intelligence_agency/161746.html

    Here’s an article in Counterpunch that McCoy gave in 2004:
    http://www.counterpunch.org/mccoy05292004.html

    What better way to create a platoon of terrorists than by addicting them to adrenalin, and setting them loose after years of panic inuced delirium to get their fix by enacting revenge on their captors.

    What better way to train a platoon of soldiers capable of torturing what is perceived to be a group of dehumanized objects. They then return home to walk the civlian streets of America. Who would be better able to enforce Martial Law: someone trained to respect the Geneva Convention and Human Rights Laws, or, someone who has experienced the power of unrestrained authority over a objectified prisoner, treated as less than human, with no rights. Once one has treated another human as an object, it is easier to do it again. We are all capable of “training”; some resist, but some succumb.

    According to McCoy, there are far more effective ways to obtain information from people. He spoke of one technique used in WW2 on Japanese prisoners. Getting the prisoners to connect with their captors, empathizing with their situation, reasons for fighting, valor in saving their compatriots by helping the US capture them rather thatn killing them, etc. wore them down and within 48 hours, according to McCoy, they had very good intelligence from those prisoners. Terrorists are evil, but intelligence is too important to employ techniques that are not effective. And besides, if they were not guilty of a crime before they were interred in the panopticon of Guantanamo, AbuGhraib, or secret renditon factories, they just may become jihadis after we get through with them. Heck of a job, Wbyuh.

    Great post, it is important to keep talking about this. The sanctioning of torture under the authority of the US Government is a symptom of a very serious disease.

  5. elendil says:

    Thanks for signing up at Bloggers Against Torture, Mash, you’re a star :-) This is such a lovely post, I think I’ll link it from the site.

  6. Robbie says:

    Mash,

    Great article. I can’t believe how the general public turns a blind eye to all of this. It really brings it home for me when I look at the photos I took at the Mt. Soledad Memorial this afternoon, especially the American flag flowing in the breeze. [-(

    Elendil, I signed up for Bloggers Against Torture. Since my blog is now hosted on WordPress, I’ll have to take a few minutes to configure your script to add your image to my blog.

  7. Phillybits says:

    Saw your post on Kos (I believe?) and was going to link it as well. I still will, but I wanted to say it’s a great post and welcome to the Alliance.

  8. Mash says:

    Elendil, Phillybits, thanks. Hopefully this is just the beginning.

    Aunty, great info! Looks like we cracked open the old playbook.

    Ingrid, Robbie, I think up until now the public has been fed a steady diet of fear, fear, fear and they have convinced us that any means is within bounds in this war. Well, if we are fighting a war against those who supposedly want to end our way of life, why are we then helping them by ending our way of life? Looks to me like we are doing a fine job destroying our liberties – the terrorists can just sit this one out. :-?

  9. dude says:

    better watch it mate, you know your not indian, the other golden child at la moment.. so they can still ship your blogging self back to dhanmondi/banani, gulshan/takeurpick…

    like i wrote before, people don’t care, until their hippy son buying powerful indoor lighting and humidifier gets picked up by the feds before they start yelling murder…

    the very big difference here is, these sorts of facilities exists all over the world, run by all kinds of government.

    all i can say is, better there, as bad as it may seem, than a turkish or egyption prison.. anbd the egyptionas know how to oppress their mullahs… just ask o.b.l.’s 2nd in command.

    (scusies to the turkish and egyptians borthers)

    BUT, people should not think.feel.betold, that to question ones government is somehow treasonous, or unpatriotic, or not natinionalistic, i would say, NOT to question ones government is just that…

    if they ship me back to the ol tera incognitus, may i request business class, on BA or Emirates or Cathay Pacific or Singapore s’il vous plait, with a kosher of halal meal, and with pineapple or tomatoe juice with lime… and LOTS of merlot with my kosher.halal meal, and a good smooth cognac with coffee!

    :)

  10. Phillybits says:

    There was a very good post by Georgie10 just the other day on that very same premise of having already done the terrorists work for them.

    Take off your partisan hat for a moment. Leave politics at the door. Conservatives, liberals, and moderates who are reading this blog, I ask you, nearly five years after the September 11th attacks, how can we say we are winning the war on terror? How can we declare success when we have allowed terror to so greatly redefine American society?

    We have surrendered the idea of a limited government. We have surrendered the spirit, if not the letter, of the First and Fourth Amendments. We have surrendered our position in the world as the beacon of human rights. We have surrendered the bedrock principle that in time of chaos, the rule of law is paramount.

    This is post-9/11 America: a nation that asserts the unquestionable authority to torture detainees, to launch a pre-emptive war, to keep humans locked up for years without trial, to force citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights in “free speech zones” the size of postage stamps, to ignore 750 laws, to ignore the civil liberty protections enacted in the wake of Watergate, to conduct surveillance on Americans without a warrant, to eternally preserve a record of every domestic call, to pry into the privacy of a free press, and to gag the mouths of whistleblowers with threats of reprisal…

    But it’s the last two paragraphs that I feel make the best point and I know I’ve already linked and provided half the post itself, but it was just so acute on the point being made.

    The terrorists’ most dangerous weapon isn’t anthrax or planes or dirty bombs; it’s fear. Fear is their most destructive weapon because it operates in a stealth manner. Fear is what has caused our government to turn on its citizens and brag that it does so out of courage in the fight against evil. And in that sense, by goading the greatest democracy on earth to view 300 million citizens as the potential enemy, fear has proved to be the most effective weapon of mass destruction of all.

    So please explain to me, my fellow Americans who are so quick to support the latest derogation of American freedom, how exactly are we winning the war on terror? How does giving up the very freedoms terrorists seek to destroy equal victory? And how do we ever apologize to future generations for the America we bequeath to them, an anemic America thirsting for freedoms long ago surrendered…a nation sculpted by the hands of terrorism into a cowering shell of its former self?

  11. Mash says:

    dude, I want British Airways business class for my trip back. They have sleeper seats! :d

    And I’m thinking that when they come for the brown man, they won’t care if you are Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi. An Indian friend once told me that he doesn’t worry if there is a little backlash against Muslims in the US because he isn’t Muslim. I pointed out that to an ignorant racist, that is a distinction without a difference. :(|)

    On a more serious note, I’m thinking this isn’t Egypt and nor should the US want to be like Egypt (and the Egyptians do a fine job oppressing their judges too). The standard shouldnt be that we are not as bad as the worst of the torturers. The standard should be no torture. Period.

    Something to ponder as you are sipping your merlot on your rendition flight. :-$

  12. dude says:

    hey man, when one is on a trip back on the ex-checker(read fed) one does not sip merlot, one gulps down as much as one can, and then one eats as much yougurt and starchy food as one is allowed on those dreamy stretchy bClass seatbeds, and one gulps down some more…

    and you are right about the brown man, whomever this person(s) you speak of is… and i am feeling quite tortured as it is if i have to read about another britney speares parenting oops, she did it agains…

    on a plus note, IKEA rocks… will they have IKEA in my homelands now i wonders…

    PS: i know about dhanmondi as the dudette lived there in her wee years when her parents were posted there. nice lake i hear…

  13. Kel says:

    Mash,

    I share your hopes for change come November.

    It’s impossible to believe that the US, with it’s proud history, has come to such a place that torture can be condoned by a sitting administration with so little public outrage on the subject.

  14. Mash says:

    dude, I say we send Britney Spears to Gitmo on a USO tour. She can torture the heck out of the detainees. And to add insult to injury they need to blast K-Fed’s rap over the loudspeakers. All jihadis will immediately repent! :((

  15. Aunty Ism says:

    Here’s a link to Hieronymus Bosch.
    Oh, the Humanity…
    Oh, why, why torture. Onward Christian soldiers? Scare the Hell outt’a’them to scare’m outt’a’Hell?

    Just a post note; your picture at the beginning of this post reminded me of something…

  16. S A says:

    Don’t overlook The Geneva Convention, particularly Article 5:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Third_Geneva_Convention#Article_5

    Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

    Article 4 identifies regular soldiers, merchant marine, organized militia, and any civilians who spontaneously take up arms against the invading force.

    There is no group who is not entitled to a competent tribunal and classification as prisoner of war, a protected status — cannot be tortured, mistreated religiously or sexually, etc.

    I cite the 3rd version of the Geneva Convention, which the US did ratify, since the US has begged off ratifying the 4th version the rest of the civilized world signed. China and a few other nations with similar human rights agendas joined us in this stance. The US refused be accountable for torture done in the name of fighting drugs, terror, or dissing the GOP. Our moral peers are now those who a decade or so ago we scorned for their manifold human rights violations and merciless retaliations for expressions of opposition or freedom.

    Read also the 1948 Human Rights Declaration which the US signed.

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Universal_declaration_of_human_rights

    A few highly pertinent Articles:

    Article 4.

    No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

    Article 5.

    No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    Article 6.

    Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

    Article 7.

    All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

    Article 8.

    Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

    Article 9.

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

    Article 10.

    Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

    Article 11.

    (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

    (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

    It’s not just our Constitution and Bill of Rights that’s been burnt. 1948 Universal Human Rights Declaration and Third Geneva Convention are in ashes as well. If we don’t take the lead on these, what other nation will? Germany? Japan? The very ones these documents were targeted at?

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