Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Move Along, Move Along ...

...Nothing to see here.

On Sunday, McClatchy DC published a commentary written by Jameel Jaffer and Larry Siems of the American Civil Liberties Union reminding us that this country still has done nothing about the crimes committed by our government with respect to kidnapping and torturing people suspected of terrorism. Eight years later, we still blithely turn a blind eye to the whole unholy and shameful episode of our nation's breech of international law.

The authors selected August 1 for their commentary because it was on that date in 2002 that the torture of Abu Zubaydah commenced and continued throughout the month. The torturers, freed from any constraints of common decency by a memo prepared by the US government, went to work:

Throughout August, drawing from the specific menu of "techniques" the memos offered, interrogators slammed Abu Zubaydah repeatedly into walls, locked him in "confinement boxes," deprived him of sleep, shackled him naked in stress positions, and waterboarded him 82 times. They stopped waterboarding him when they finally concluded he was not concealing information — and then officials flew from Washington to Thailand and insisted on watching an eighty-third session.

Horrific? Certainly. Horrific and absolutely useless when it came to gathering information. What the CIA and its contractors got was a series of stories invented by Abu Zubaydah to stop the torture. That didn't stop our government, however. The torture techniques were used against dozens, perhaps hundreds of other "detainees," and were justified by the government as necessary for "national security." Nobody stopped the torture, and everybody who engaged in it is still strutting around free.

Today, nobody argues that Abu Zubaydah wasn't tortured. His name has disappeared from dozens of charge sheets against other detainees because the information he gave was so clearly tainted by his treatment. And yet we have done practically nothing to address the abuse that he and many others suffered, as U.S. and international laws against torture require — no prosecutions or investigations of senior officials who oversaw the torture program, no meaningful acknowledgment or redress for the program's survivors.

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, legal memo author John Yoo, and the other architects of the program brazenly discuss their crimes in public appearances, still pressing the memos' flawed line that the brutal treatment of prisoners was necessary, that it was justifiable as self-defense, or simply that the President can ignore the law in the name of national security.

The current administration has admonished us to look forward, not backward; to move on to more pressing issues like the economy and health care reform. The rest of the world, however, isn't quite so willing to move on. The governments of Great Britain, Australia, Poland, Lithuania and others have opened investigations into the roles of their own citizens in the torture and in their cooperation with the US government in this shameful period. These nations also have to deal with sickly economies and internal issues, but they understand the importance of investigating and punishing the wrongdoers. Justice demands no less. Honor requires it.

Apparently "justice" and "honor" are words that hold no meaning in this country. If they did, we too would look backward, recoil in horror, and vow to insure this never happens again by sternly punishing the miscreants.

I'm not holding my breath.

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