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Monday, April 27, 2009

An important moment in the history of torture...

I'm not an American citizen, but I have sent my message to President Obama - 'There is no option. Prosecuting torture and other illegal acts is not an executive decision. Without justice, the moral high road is no longer available to the United States."

The excerpts below are from an Amnesty USA document I read this morning.


Shocking evidence from a classified Senate Armed Services Committee report released last week makes the most compelling case to date that senior Bush administration officials intentionally lied about torture.

Under the bright lights of national news cameras, President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld described the horrors of Abu Ghraib as acts committed by a "few bad apples," when in fact, they were actively encouraging the armed forces to torture prisoners at detention centers worldwide.

The details in this and other documents recently released should send chills down your spine. They confirm our worst nightmares about the types of interrogation tactics approved, including slamming suspects into walls, waterboarding 2 individuals a combined 266 times and exploiting another's fear of insects by confining him in a box with an insect.

Horrifying as they are, these details only scratch the surface of what our 50 years of experience interviewing victims of torture tells us. We know that abuse always escalates over time, especially when sanctioned at the highest levels.

The administration's response? Give torturers a free pass. The Obama administration announced recently that it would guarantee immunity to CIA officials and others who carried out clearly illegal interrogation tactics. This action directly contradicts the administration's assertions that nobody is above the law.

The President and others in his administration have begun to change their tune in response to mounting public outcry. And now Obama has signaled that he may leave the door open for further investigation of those in the highest rungs of power in the Bush administration.

This moment represents a crucial opening in the fight for accountability. It's a chance to finally slap the cuffs on those who authorized interrogators to take the gloves off and ensure that those responsible for abuse are held to account for the irreparable harm they've caused.

And most importantly, it's an acknowledgment that accountability is the only way to put an end to the failed policies of detention without trial and detainee abuse.

What happens next will determine whether the whole story about Bush-era torture will see the light of day or remain shrouded in secrecy. We need to ensure that a non-partisan independent commission leads the investigation, and that it's free from political influences, has subpoena power and enough money to pursue the truth.


If you're interested in an international perspective on the Obama Administration's first 100 days, from a human rights perspective, have a look here.

Excellent video. Excellent message.
I hope he can see - and do - what is right.
I don't think Obama is a bad man but he's definitely not into confrontation. He never would have been elected if he tended to take strong moral stands.. just the way things are here nowadays. He needs to be told that the American people will not accept the outrages perpetrated in their name and I think more and more citizens are making their feelings known.
Hi Gary
It does seem longer than 100 days – punctuated with all of those numerous new bills and not to mention a whopping US $3.6 trillion 2010 budget – alongside a $787 billion stimulus package and other measures which it is estimated will add $US9.3 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years. But as your Amnesty report indicates many human rights initiatives do represent an admirable first step towards integrity.

But I had also noticed testimony reported in late February in the NY times of Obama nominees endorsing continuation of the CIA’s prior program of transferring suspected terrorists to other countries without any legal rights for indefinite periods without any requirement for detained suspects to ever have to appear in court -even when suspects are arrested far from any war zone. The new administration as I understand it is also embracing the Bush’s legal team’s arguments that the current lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees should be shut down because of the “state secrets” doctrine and seemingly has also left the door ajar to resume military commission trials.
It would be a tragedy should they revert back to these inequitable policies but hopefully with mounting pressure from such wonderful organizations as Amnesty the tide is turning ? .

Best wishes
Your comment on my blog almost made me cry....
Hi Beth and thanks.

Yes Susan, he's a huge improvement, but it's easy to overshoot what is possible. ("overhope?"

Lindsay, Obama has suggested a pardon for those who it is learned committed 'torture crimes'. I think that the pressure from the American people and the fact that lots of elements of the justice system are not his role may lead to prosecutions.

Extraordinary rendition is also under scrutiny and I believe will be stopped as US policy soon. If you want a terrific fiction read that gets at some of this in an interesting and nuanced manner, try Le Carre's latest, A MOST WANTED MAN.

Don't cry Sarah... awwww.

Thanks for this post, the video, and the link.

At the risk of sounding sappy, I don't think it is possible to overhope. You, in fact, inspire me to do so.

big wheels keep on turning. A.I. is a wrench in the gears. I have 3 very gentle adult sons, largely, i think because they were raised by a foolish mum whose first rule was "we don't hurt other people". i think maybe we need some foolish mums in government.
You know I just remembered another book you might like - Salman Rushdie's, Shalimar the Clown
Hey thanks Cheri!

gfid - good rule. good boys :)

Thanks Susan, I like Rushdie but haven't read that one.
It's not one of his very best but he does a wonderful portrayal of Kashmir before the wars.

Another writer bound to eventually win a Nobel prize for literature is Amitav Ghosh. Although it's the first of an intended trilogy, I couldn't resist reading Sea of Poppies and was well rewarded.
Thanks for that tip too. My next-to-read stack is becoming intimidating. I'm into Joseph Boyle's second book, Through Black Spruce right now. Very good as was the first amazing one Three Day Road.
Okay, I'll put him on my list. Have a good weekend.. or does that make a difference to the self-employed? I'm afraid if I were I'd never know when to stop.
Bonjour, withinsight.blogspot.com!
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