All of these rights were denied those detained by bushco: Human persons were seized, detained, imprisoned, tortured, deprived of every human comfort - including clothing - deliberately demeaned, degraded, dehumanized. All without legal standing.
It's not just the torture that's so terrible. Taken from their culture, from friends and family, from legal representation, stripped of clothing, searched in every bodily orifice, shackled, kept in total darkness or unending light, kept from normal exercise, deprived of sleep, held without charge, with no end in sight. Humiliated in every possible way. Made to feel a "toy" to be "played with" by captors bent on demonstrating their total control and absolute contempt.
This is the context of torture.
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has a Preamble and among its clauses is this:
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind...Think about that for a moment. Torture begins with disregard and contempt for human rights. That's where it begins. So now let's take a look at some "universal human rights":
Article 1.Today's New York Times has a long article in the Week in Review, excerpted from an even longer article in the New York Review of Books. There you can read the details of torture taken from Red Cross interviews, which were never to have been made public. I will not describe the torture. You can go and read that for yourself. Because my point is larger than the torture. My point is the circumstances under which the torture occurred. And why is that? Because some will quibble, as many have, and say: "Oh, that's no different from me standing at desk for hours". Or, "Oh, I've been through the SERE training and I'm ok."
* All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
* Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
* Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
* No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
* No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
* Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
* All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
* Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
* No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
* Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
* (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.
* (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offense on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offense, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offense was committed.
[bold, italics, and underlines mine]
Well, I am here to say:
Choosing to stand at a desk is different than being shackled naked to a desk by masked thugs, depriving you of sleep and solid food and privacy. And choosing to undergo time-limited training by fellow citizens, who have been through similar training and who mean you no harm, is different from being held without charge in conditions that would be deemed a crime if you did it to an animal.Years ago, at the time when the abuses of Abu Ghraib became public, my brother did a little internet website and among other things he put up some photos with captions - which, to my mind - are so powerful, in showing how this nation's leaders went so seriously off the track. I wish I could show you the originals. But I'll do my best to recreate them. Please click on each statement for a photo. And notice the similarity of the poses:
Disregard and contempt for human rights. This has led to torture. And not just the acts of torture but all the circumstances of torture. The deprivation of rights - as enumerated above. The torture victims had no rights. Indeed, they were deprived of every possible right. And on top of that, they were tortured.
If we respond to these crimes against humanity by doing nothing, we leave ourselves, as a nation, in a perilous situation. We are in peril of losing our focus on human rights. We are in peril of acting as if the End justifies the Means. I see this happening in the health care debate. I see this happening in the exclusion of rights to gay people. I see this happening in churches and the public square.
Depravity can come of disregard and contempt for human rights. No matter who that person is. No matter what they may have done or failed to do.
This is why it is incumbent upon us to discover and bring to light every abuse that has happened on our watch. Every failure to accord rights must be acknowledged. As wrong. Failure to do so leaves open The Door to Depravity.
It is vital for the strength and health of the nation that we do not fail to acknowledge the wrongs that were done. It is vital to pursue Justice. To investigate and prosecute those who failed to accord rights to victims. Who "justified" and authorized and supervised things we can hardly bear to know. But know we must. Pursue Justice we must. Against those who twisted the law and wrote depraved memos. Against those who signed off on torture - irregardless of what words were used as euphemisms. Against those Principals, who authorized in real time the succession of abuses and the deprivation of rights.
We owe the world an accounting. We owe ourselves an accounting. We owe history an accounting. We owe it to our children. To those who come after us. We must bind ourselves once again to the upholding of human rights and to the awareness that failure to do so leaves open The Door to Depravity.