Monday, November 14, 2005

We do not torture

Last week, president George W. Bush met president Torrijos of Panama in Panama City. While there, they held a joint press conference. When asked if he agreed with vice president Cheney that the CIA should be exempt from legislation to ban torture, Bush's response was "We do not torture."

The presidency is notorious for having a hard time understanding advanced English vocabulary. After all, who could forget president Clinton saying, "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is." Last week's press conference leaves us wondering what Bush thinks the meaning of "we" is.

First of all, the context of the reporter's question that elicited the response begs the question. Why would Cheney want the CIA to be permitted to torture detainees if we do not torture? Does the CIA, an agency which is part of the executive branch of government led by Bush, not qualify as "we"?

If the CIA does not qualify as "we," then what about the military? The events at Abu Ghraib are now infamous incidents of torture. However, the highest rank court martialed for that torture was a sergeant. Could that have been a way to distance the guilty parties from the president? The former commander at Abu Ghraib, brigadier general Janis Karpinski, makes a convincing case that she was a scapegoat of her immediate commanders, military intelligence officials, and Rumsfeld. Do none of them qualify as "we" to the commander in chief?

In fact, secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld is being sued by two Iraqi businessmen. What are they suing him for? They claim they were tortured by American forces for months, violating their rights under the US Constitution and international law. This occurred after they were arrested during a business meeting in 2003, in spite of the fact that they were not part of any anti-American activity.

Iraq is not the only place where torture occurs at the hands of Bush's troops. An FBI memo documents abuses occurring at Guantanamo Bay as far back as 2002. It describes one incident in which a soldier reportedly bent a prisoner's thumbs back and "grabbed his genitals." In another, an FBI agent saw a detainee "gagged with duct tape" for refusing to stop chanting the Quran. In a third episode, a prisoner allegedly was threatened with an aggressive dog and the man was placed for three months in "intense isolation," causing him to experience "extreme psychological trauma."

But that was all in the past, right? Maybe Bush says we do not torture because things have changed. Well, according to Human Rights Watch, troops of the 82nd Airborne stationed at Forward Operating Base Mercury (FOB Mercury) near Fallujah were doing the following as recently as last year:
  • routine, severe beatings of prisoners and other cruel and inhumane treatment
  • a soldier is alleged to have broken a detainee'’s leg with a baseball bat
  • detainees were forced to hold five-gallon jugs of water with their arms outstretched and perform other acts until they passed out
  • soldiers applied chemical substances to detainees'’ skin and eyes, and subjected detainees to forced stress positions, sleep deprivation, and extremes of hot and cold
  • detainees were stacked into human pyramids and denied food and water
Granted, there are no reports of torture being committed by Bush's own hands. Perhaps when he says we do not torture, by "we" he means anyone else in his line of authority and himself working as a tag-team.
We do not torture.


The Progressive said...

'Cheney is vice president for torture'
A former CIA director has claimed that torture is condoned and even approved by the Bush government...Speaking of Bush's claims that the US does not use torture, Admiral Turner, who ran the CIA from 1977 to 1981, said: "I do not believe him".

The Progressive said...

The tortured souls are coming out of the woodwork. Perhaps they were just waiting for Bush to unambiguously state, "We do not torture." Last week, a German man brought suit against the CIA. He alleges that the CIA took him to Afghanistan and tortured him after the spy agency mistakenly identified him as a participant in the 9/11 terrorism. The CIA later released him when it was clear there were no grounds left on which to claim he was dangerous to the US.