Friday, 20 July 2007

Another cop-out condemnation of torture

President Bush has signed "an executive order banning cruel treatment of terrorism suspects during interrogation", says the BBC.

Considering torture is already against the law — several laws in fact — this new order does little if any for helping America's tarnished image caused by its "war on terror". The administration will likely continue to turn a blind eye against operations deemed questionable in the area of human rights and will use this latest order as something to fall back on: 'the president has said he does not condone torture, he even made an executive order against it, so this case of "torture" is surely the case of a few bad apples'. Is this executive order, or EO, in fact a sort of admission that the White House has allowed torture to go on unabated? Probably not. But it has been known to use techniques and talk about them openly that it does not consider torture, but everyone else does, like waterboarding.

The damage is already done, and this latest cop-out by the Bush administration (see below) won't really alter the fact that the United States not only looks bad to the world, but will continue to act poorly, even when supposedly championing human rights, in the name of fighting terrorism. Innocents and terrorists alike will continue to be taken, detained, and treated unacceptably. The executive order still gives much authority for discretion to the relevant authorities to define which interrogation tactics are deemed "safe".

Here's what Marty Lederman over at Balkinization had to say about Bush's executive order on CIA torture:

The President has finally signed the Executive Order purportedly construing Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, as required by the Military Commissions Act (MCA). It is, in a word, worthless. Last month I surmised that the E.O. would be "very cryptic and uninformative, and that the public will not learn of what techniques our government is using and deeming not to be 'cruel treatment and torture.'"
Just as the details of the Army Field Manual are published and open to public debate, so, too, should be the legal limitations that our government has identified regarding the CIA's analogous activities. As it is, this hide-the-ball lawmaking is supremely cynical, and, after all these years of public debate, an insult to the public and to the Congress. It's not surprising, however.

Later in the post, he points out the flaws as well as the legal questions this order puts into play. If you want to learn more on the matter from someone who knows this topic well, see the above link.

Isn't it time for some public oversight of what is happening at Gitmo and elsewhere? Shouldn't the vagueness end and the 'government of the people' be honest with its people? Not all of that information is or should be 'top secret' and essential to be kept secret for national security purposes. Everyone can see through the hubris, and yet Congress limits itself to symbolic maneuvers when dealing with executive oversight.

By trivializing not only national security but human rights and civil liberties — like the right to privacy and a fair trial — and politicizing what's left, the Bush administration has made a mockery of American political values still weak from the dark ages of the Cold War and the liberty-restricting times preceding it. The Military Commissions Act was a terrible law. What's worse is that only its negative aspects have seen the light of day so far, and nothing seems to be stopping them.


Anonymous said...

It's always comforting to know others are feeling the same frustrations and even anger about the current administration. Thanks.


clearthought said...

Thanks for the comment, MAS. It's always reassuring to know one is not alone in one's views.