How we Treat Others and the Question of Torture
Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions provides controlling authority on the question of torture. The Article specifically bans any cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, or outrages against the human dignity of prisoners of war and POWs. The prohibition against torture was expanded to include military personnel shipwrecked at sea, as well as prisoners of war and civilians under enemy control.
And in July 2006, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the ban applies to top terror suspects detained in CIA-run prisons as well as at Guantanamo Bay. The United States as well 194 countries are signatories to the Conventions and countries that violate the torture ban can be held accountable for … war crimes.” http://www.cfr.org/international-law/united-states-geneva-conventions/p11485.Id.
Water boarding, one of the tactics employed by the CIA in the War on Terror, has long been recognized as a form of torture. The practice involves restraining a suspect and forcing water down his nose and mouth to the point of near drowning. “Recently released documents detail how the United States at the end of WW II, charged hundreds of Japanese military officials and prison guards with war crimes for water boarding American prisoners of war. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/waterboarding-torture-japan-world-war-ii.” That the shoe is on the other foot does not remove the practice from torture.
For approximately 2002 to 2009, both here and abroad, via the practice of rendering suspects to other countries, America tortured suspected terrorist via water boarding, mock burials, confinement in coffin sized boxes for 266 hours and even smaller boxes only 21 inches wide for an additional 29 hours (sometimes replete with insects), handcuffing a prisoner’s hands over his head for 22 hours a day, multiple and consecutive days of sleep deprivation, electric shocks to the genitals, hypothermia, threatened rape, and forced rectal feedings. Some of the recommended but not implemented tactics were even worse.
We are neither naïve nor argue that terrorist be treated lightly. Nonetheless, there is a real and material downside to our conduct. That we tortured people contrary to the rule of law, in the dark and sans due process speaks to the nation’s character.
No formal charges were filed against the detainees. No hearings were held and no evidence was proffered against them, at least not in a court of law. There were neither trials nor convictions and at least 26 suspects were found to be innocent, one of whom was chained to his cell, doused with water and found frozen to death while in CIA custody. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/12/15/dick-cheney-torture-senate-intelligence-committee-editorials- And there are of course questions as to whether torture produces reliable information and if it creates more terrorist.
But the reckless spending associated with the terror program is equally troubling. The Senate report reveals that we paid two psychologists, neither of whom had “specialized information on al Qaeda, a background in counter-terrorism or any pertinent cultural or linguistic knowledge, $81 million dollars to facilitate the effort.” See http://www.insurangle.com/cia-paid-torture-teachers-80-million-2.html.
No competitive bidding was involved as the contractors received a sole source contract. They were selected because as former Air Force employees they were known to the CIA.
Additionally, the agency exercised little oversight over the program. ‘The psychologist designed, executed, managed and evaluated the program … operating … a feedback loop of torture, coming up with new ways to inflict pain on detainees and then convincing CIA brass that the harsh tactics had worked.” Id.
Little wonder they constantly reported that their efforts were effective and that the program produced valuable intelligence. For $180 million dollars, what else were they going to say?
Evan more shocking, the original contract was not for $80 million. It was instead for $180 million. But for President Obama terminating the contract in 2009, they would have received millions more.
And still the money flows. The CIA will provide $5 million in indemnity costs to cover all legal expenses for potential criminal prosecution and investigations through 2021. And the contractor’s firm has already received $1.1 million from the CIA to cover legal expenses, much of which is related to interviews with the Senate Intelligence Committee. The psychologists individually received payments of $1.5 million and $1.1 million … Id.
That the government would pay this kind of money to two people to torture detainees, some of whom were innocent and otherwise break the law is appalling. This clear violation of the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm to others makes us question how they maintain their medical licenses. And this at the very time when millions of Americans lost their jobs, homes, retirement and future in the economic crash of 2007-2008, a crises exacerbated by two unfunded and mismanaged wars.
We could have achieved the same result by rendering the detainees to American prisoners. They too are experts in the field of forced rectal invasions and would have done the job for a pack of cigarettes. Apparently when it comes to dealing with terrorism, the grand scheme still rings true. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Some argue that even if the CIA did engage in torture so damn what? We appreciate their position and readily concede that the 9/11 attack was a soul shattering experience. American leadership was rightfully concerned with bringing the perpetrators to justice and protecting the homeland. Theirs was not an easy task.
And it bears repeating that we shed no tears for terrorist. They are a vicious, perverted lot who are dedicated to our destruction. As such, we are morally obligated to defend ourselves and the world. But even here there are limits to what we can and should do.
We stand against torture not because it is harmful to the terrorist but because it is harmful to us. Ether we are a nation of laws or we are not. Either we serve as the shining beacon on the hill; the light for the rest of the world to follow or we do not. We lose the war on terror and our very soul if in fighting terrorist, we become terrorists.
In conclusion, respecting the humanity of the worst is no mere exercise in idealistic gentility. It instead ensures and protects the humanity of the best of us, especially in a world where beheading are transmitted on U-Tube, Boko Haram kidnaps and rapes teenage girls in Africa, Taliban fighters massacres 141 people, 132 of which were school children, foreign countries engage in cyber attacks on American companies and domestically we stand on the precipice of open warfare between citizens and the police.
And we prove that America is the best of us by our conduct as opposed to theirs. The way we treat others, even the worst of others says a lot more about us than it does about them.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum