Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's not Just the Torture! (3.15.09)

If you or I were arrested, we could presume certain things.  We'd be read our "rights".  We'd be assured we had the right to legal counsel.  We would not be interrogated alone, but could have an attorney present.  We would be assumed innocent, unless we admitted guilt or were proven guilty in a court of law.   We could not be held without a "charge" and a legal proceeding related to that charge.   Etc.

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.
    * 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.

Article 2.
    * 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.

Article 3.
    * Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.
    * No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.
    * No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.
    * Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.
    * 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.

Article 8.
    * 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.

Article 9.
    * No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.
    * 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.
Article 11.

    * (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]
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 occurredAnd 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." 

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:
Make War in the Name of Virtue

Sacrifice Virtue in the Name of War
That's what we've doneWe made a virtue of warA war was sold on lies!  And the whole ends justifying the means Fallacy was compounded by disregard and contempt for human rights - exactly the circumstances, which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes as resulting in "barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind".

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.



Excellent commentary on the NY Times article by emptywheel:
Post on torture of a 14 year old black teenager in 1968 in the South. Very moving:
"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."
oleeb, you have been a tireless voice for human rights and against abuses of all types. And I thank for that!
I would like to add one more to the list: we owe an accounting to those of whom we tortured.
Thank you, Astral. Absolutely!
Since when, have the majority of Americans wanted to hear the truth about much of anything. Especially, some accounting of possible U.S. torture, the results of which would likely counter our naive national self-image of always being the "good-guys".
Things like death and torture are naturally not something most folks want to read about or hear about. But if they see this is affecting our good name all over the world, that may be different.
You're right that people don't "want" to hear about such things. I'm quite sure the Germans didn't want to hear about Auschwitz or Bucehnwald nor did the Japanese want to hear about their war crimes, but an accounting was owed to the world. Similarly, while not on the same scale as the German and Japanese crimes against humanity, it is our obligation to account for all the crimes committed by our government on our behalf.
I agree with you on what SHOULD happen. The difference with Germany and Japan, however, was that those countries had to be forced to such an accounting of their actions by outside countries. It wasn't something they were able to perform themselves. I'd very much like to believe that the difference between Germany, Japan, and the U.S. is that we have the national character to bring ourselves to account. But, I haven't yet seen evidence of that.
I think "we" do have the character as a nation to do this. I do not think that our current leaders, and sadly I cannot avoid including the President in this group, do not. They don't have the moral character, they don't have the political guts or fortitude.
The only means by which a real accounting will take place is if the people demand it of their leaders. Historically, American political leaders have never done anything progressive, nor have they pursued a policy of justice for the elite or moral credibility unless forced to do so. It's up to us. If we wait for our leaders to do the right thing on their own we will all go to our graves at a ripe old age waiting for that day to come.
I cannot agree more with your stance.
There needs to be consequences and judgements implemented. In my opinion, those who disagree and refuse to support identifying and holding the guilty accountable are just as guilty as those who committed the acts.
If it was their child/loved one who was being tortured would they still choose to enable and set free the ones responsible? Scary, but some probably would...(Cheney comes to mind).
As always Thera, excellent and appreciated.
Isn't it ironic that the former 'resident used the word "consequences" all the time but seems to shrink from accepting them himself?
I know how strongly you support Justice!
"We made a virtue of war. "
Not really, but we have not heeded Ike's warning well enough ... the one about the Military Industrial Complex which seeks to, and generally does, profit from war and the threat of war. I believe PNAC (basically Bush&Co) advocated "perpetual war", which while not making war a virtue does presume at least that it's a necessary evil.
Did you notice the NYT article about how maybe two wars is not enough, as if the US should be planning to engage in 3 or 4 at once? Is it mere coincidence that such notions are put forward in the face of looming clamps on military budgets?
"Is it mere coincidence that such notions are put forward in the face of looming clamps on military budgets?" Maybe. It may also reflect to some degree the extent to which our squandering of military and economic resources in Iraq and Afghanistan has potentially left other areas of the world more exposed to predatory nations, and the desire to be prepared should such a conflict arise, (one which might actually threaten US security, perhaps?). The bottom line is that the current world paradigm as seen from within the beltway, is that the US is the world's policeman. That view largely propagated by the so called military-industrial complex I think is no longer feasible if just for economic reasons alone. Either way, it's time we rethought our military role in the world, which ultimately entails rethinking the basic structure of international relations.
Yes, policemen are not soldiers and law enforcement is not war.
The war in Iraq was over years ago and should never have been started by Bush. The moral poverty (if not bankruptcy) which led him into Iraq remained after the war was over. Similarly in Afg. though most would accept the initial invasion (I consider myself in a tiny minority opposed to that acceptance). Now the question is: Will Obama improve our moral standing or merely continue to pay lip service to that idea while continuing to follow in Bush's footsteps?
Thanks for giving us a perfect example of a "quibble" in your first paragraph.
quibble: "to evade the point of an argument by caviling about words"
"Yes, policemen are not soldiers and law enforcement is not war."
Notice the "Yes" in the first paragraph of the comment to which you replied.
Bush went to war when war was not necessary. You call this a mere quibble, and an exemplary one on my part, in a thread about justice (not just torture)?? What do you think my comment, as a quibble, endeavors to avoid in its overt agreement?
TheraP, you seem to have some unstated problem here. You should note that taking an agreement as a point of evaded argument is simply your mistake. You are in effect quibbling [erroneously] about my accurate reflection.
Or was your reply misposted, did you mean it for my fine distinction in re Ike and virtue? I do find that arguing over strawman positions as if they were real is usually a waste of time, thus I tend to point them out rather than beat up on them.

Peace be with you.
Now that's curious, when I replied your comment seemed to be indented under a different comment.
Does my "quibble" truly avoid the truth, in your view?
I don't mean to butt in here, but, I think if you click on Thera's comment/reply to eds comment about the quibble, she was commenting on your first comments' first paragraph, which ends "which while not making war a virtue does presume at least that it's a necessary evil". jest sayin'.
That's what I figured but it was odd that her comment seemed to have been misplaced but is now placed correctly.
I don't think it's quibbling nor missing the point if truth is of the essence, as I thought I'd already said! If bashing strawman is the point of the exercise, there are plenty of other folks who seem to want to do that.
Absolutely right on, TheraP. But not one mention of the current administration that, while making progress on a few fronts, is still continuing the obfuscations in many ways?
For every "we" in your essay, I would insert "President Obama and the Democratic Congress." The only thing that "we" can do, having elected our representatives as agents of change, is to press them to do the right thing. Thank you for continuing to promote these issues.
Yes, I am just as concerned that the congress and DoJ bring these crimes to light, as I have written in many previous posts. I trust Obama will not stand in their way. And I implore him to consider seriously the need for Justice.
I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I am just trying to emphasize the point that constant pressure on elected officials to abide their oaths and carry out their duties from the public at large is what’s lacking now (understandably with the economic death spiral). But this is what allowed Bush to arrogate dictatorial powers to his own administration in the first place. Of course, the press has mostly ignored public outrage and protests this past decade, but even the blogosphere is starting to get some traction now.
Glad to have you in this cause, Don! Yes, it's a matter of constant vigilance!
I think if we keep up the drum beat, Obama will feel the wind at his back. As will the Congress. And DoJ.
We owe ourselves an accounting. And that is why it is so important that we keep bringing this stuff up.
And nobody does it better than TheraP.
Thank you, dd. You are a tireless supporter! :)
TheraP, while I fully agree with your argument and your outrage, U.S. citizens were not protected under the Bush Administration. That is why the issues of the President being able to label anyone an "enemy combatant" and the abridgment of Habeas Corpus were such a big deal.
Of note, and to add fuel to the fire of investigations, is the the report by UN Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering" (pdf). The report argues that the U.S. rendition policy broke international law - among other issues such as datamining and profiling.
If it is accepted that various components of the Bush administration prosecution of the "war on terror" violated international law, then the U.S. will be hard pressed to not pursue such allegations.
Eric Holder has already clearly stated that "waterboarding" is torture. The question remains as to whether that determination/reversal will be applied to past actions or only to future actions. Regardless, waterboarding was not the only "interrogation" technique used.

Thank you, Rowan, for bringing up these other issues. I have written previously about the need for DoJ to investigate and prosecute. I have written about the fact that the US has never signed the certain international treaties and has abrogated and disobeyed others.
So long as human rights are neglected anywhere, at home or abroad, by ourselves or those to whom we have delegated authority, all of us suffer and rights are undermined.
We need more posts on this topic. Be my guest!
I will put it on my "to do" list.
As time permits. Don't pressure yourself. But I will look forward to that.
There was no greater threat to our freedom then the ability of one man to label another a terrorist. It is insane to consider oneself a patriot and condone this notion.
Now that is epigram you've just written! And you are so right!
Highly Highly rec'd. I can't tell you how emphatically I agree.
The only thing I would add is: 24, Grand Theft Auto, and the SAW movie series. Something is seriously amiss in our culture and the only way we can stop the check our downward slide is a national moral accounting. We need to have the discussion and remind everybody (including ourselves) what we stand for and what we believe in. It is absolutely imperative.
I so agree. I love how you put that:
"a national moral accounting" - to have the discussion and remind everybody (including ourselves) what we stand for and what we believe in. It is absolutely imperative
I hope everyone remembers that Obama has been POTUS for less than two months. I believe there will be action taken by this administration, but it takes time and energy to lay the solid foundation to take this action. To me, he seems to be setting up the process methodically and thoughtfully.
However, we all need to communicate the nut of your post to ALL our public officials now and tomorrow and the day after that, et al......
It's on us to give him the support and yes, cover, he needs.
Yes, I agree. The more we create wind at his back, the easier for those who need to investigate to do so (Congress and DoJ) and the more carefully Obama himself must tread.
It's high time that Dawn Johnsen's nomination is voted on. So she can get in there and advocate for all of this as head of OLC.
We stand for, and largely "believe in" Infotainment.
The question is whether we remain sane, whether we know which is which when it comes to being playful or being serious, entertainment or information. We embrace both fact and fiction, but perhaps too often don't know fact from fiction or if we suspect we do, we don't experiment effectively to test them early enough.
Do those shows reflect the serious culture, or do they form a new trend in the playful culture which might help confuse fact and fiction? Sometimes the reflection is reverse if not actually perverse -- do adults who watch violence on TV become more passive or more violent for it?
Maybe we have had too much leisure time to spend as couch potatoes. I obviously do, tho' I don't engage those specific activities (I did watch a few episodes of 24 some years ago).

24 I can understand. Have you seen the SAW series, or trite like "hostel'. Call me an old time moralist or maybe just weak stomached, but in my view nothing can justify torture porn. It is a sign of sickness

I saw part of what was probably the first Saw movie on TV, two people chained in a room, one must die for the other to live... I didn't like what I, uh, saw. "torture porn" fits well enough here, as I suppose Texas Chainsaw, Chucky, Freddie, et al fantasies does (which I've never seen). Are you asking why people indulge in this stuff?
But there is an issue this touches on, which applies to economics and politics, a sort of Darwinism I suppose. Survival of the fittest does test the rule of law and the role of conscience, seriously speaking.
Having worked with torture victims, I have zero tolerance for torture or its depiction. There are degrees of moral depravity that indicate depths of evil or insanity or both. No society should be encouraging such deeds or their depiction.
_Fahrenheit 451_ came from a short story called "Bright Phoenix."
From the ashes might come a better society.

So you're for destroying society in order to save it? Now that is scary!
That's a can of worms, TheraP.
"creative destruction" is part of both art and science, as well as part of modern capitalism and politics.
But I'm not arguing in favor of saturation bombing of the airwaves with the likes of the shows mentioned.

Thanks for this post Thera! There is so much pressure to lay these issues aside - 'they are in the past, they shall not be repeated in any case' - in these times of economic crisis; just as there was pressure to lay the law aside in the time of terror. And when jobs and homes are being lost we lose sight of the importance of things. So thanks for bringing the most fundamental of things - human rights - to the forefront. Keeping them there seems like a task that must come from the grassroots. Also, understanding their broader importance requires discussions like yours to keep the focus clear. This time of restoring the country's soul reminds me Schweitzer's words:
"Civilization can only revive when there shall come into being in a number of individuals a new tone of mind, independent of the prevalent one among the crowds, and in opposition to it -- a tone of mind which will gradually win influence over the collective one, and in the end determine its character. Only an ethical movement can rescue us from barbarism, and the ethical comes into existence only in individuals."
It took only a few individuals in the White House to destroy the fabric of morals, and determine our character for a few years. And it will require a common effort to build it back up. So thanks.
I think ethics and morality lie at the heart of all that has gone wrong. Be it economic, be it social, political, etc. Thanks for your kind words.
Great post TheraP. It also leads me to a few questions. How does International Law work? Does it trump the laws of a nation? Do detainees have or should they have (by law) access to legal council?
What about POW's, I read many of the detainees were not part of any military group but isn't it possible they were aiding and abetting the enemy? Do we truly know who the enemy is? How would this be determined and who would preside?
There are so many things I would like to see addressed with the new administration but I understand patience and timing must be used in getting it all done. I'm also beginning to understand how complicated many of these issues are.
I believe we all have rights under Constitutional, International, moral and or ethical law, but by the same token, I'd like to know that someone who tries to harm us, will be investigated and dealt with accordingly if found guilty. That goes for detainees as well as former administrations.
I have one last question. Is it possible for do process (under the law) to override ethics and morals and if so, how do we reconcile these issues?

Due process under the law can be used to get a criminal off on a technicality. In fiction there's vigilante justice to back that up, and I suppose in some factual cases it happens too.
International law doesn't trump national sovereignty even if it is different than internal laws -- it doesn't apply to a nation which did not accept it. But what is not illegal internally might be a violation of international law. People talk about international law as if it were something else, a kind of symbol of a "higher law", but things such as the Geneva Conventions are only conventions otherwise.
Just my opinions...
The US is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. As well as to the Convention Against Torture. And the Constitution itself mandates that Treaties are legally binding. In addition, the Convention against torture mandates that its signatories enact national legislation in line with the articles of the convention. We have done that. We have outlawed torture by statutory law, consistent with the convention against torture.
As far as the intricacies of international versus national law as an abstract question, I am not a lawyer. And I would direct you to legal blogs that deal with such issues. You can google or you can check such places as emptywheel's old posts, especially the comments as well as Glenn Greenwald.
Irregardless of who people are or what they have done, all people must be accorded basic legal rights and human rights. You can't quibble over such things. It leads to dark and dangerous places, such as we have seen under bush, where people were deliberately treated in ways which would even be illegal to treat animals.
Ethics and morality are not the same as laws. They function more like your conscience. Laws are enacted by cities, counties, states, and the federal government. Ethics and morality are based on principles and values and reasoning.
Sounds like you need to do some reading in philosophy and some heavy duty legal reading. I'd say you have your work cut out for you. Maybe you can get some suggestions from dd. But it's best to go to a legal blog. And I'm sure there must be some that deal with the questions you're asking.
I'd say first read the Constitution. And you'll see that it mandates that treaties be obeyed. There really is no wiggle room when it comes to human rights versus war crimes.
I've written a couple of blogs in the past that dealt with some of what I've written here. This comment is just a summary. Many others have made the same points.

I thought the poster's questions were well-intentioned. You didn't know some of the answers-- so both of you have some research to do. Thera, you have a tendency to high-five your chorus and backhand your dissonance.
International law derives its power from treaties and the participatory nations' willingness to enforce them. There are international tribunals and a world media that can mete out censure and punishment.
However, the United States has nonpareil rights vis a vis international law. Besides the UN veto, there are military and trade powers that the US can flex in order to selecrively enforce and interpret international law. While detention without trial and torture are horrible, it pales in comparison to the invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation that posed no threat to our security.
What must be understood in this thread and elsewhere is the history of explicit, implicit, and complicit human rights abuses that the US is guilty of perpetrating. From Indian removal to College of the Americas to bombing Cambodia to Timor... The litany of crimes would threaten every administration with a perp walk.
Yes, the Bush admin is particularly egregious, but they are not alone. How can we regain a moral standing that never existed? Tell Iraq that we had a moral standing. Tell Vietnam. Tell Korea. Tell Panama. Tell Haiti. Tell Indonesia.
The problems that you elucidate will not be mitigated by merely holding Bush accountable. We as a nation need to honestly assess our history, bear witness to our misdeeds and atone. The moral crisis is built in to our nationalism and its mythos. We can not escape it without utterly changing how we live.
Fabulous comment, Zipperupus! Every bit of it! I completely agree that it was wrong to invade Iraq (I was against it from the start and did everything I could to try and avert it). I agree completely that we as a nation have touted ourselves as being moral and just while oppressing people here at home - from the very beginning - as well as abroad. Yes, there's enough blame to go around. Nevertheless, I still believe there must be an accounting for the abuses under bushco. And it seems you agree. That we should not stop there, I'm on board with you! We have a lot to account for.
Thanks also for your explanation of how international law works - and how the US works its way around international law. I, for example, well recall, before the Iraq invasion, how the US got special permission to not be accountable for certain violations of international law - ahead of time! And that, for me, raised red flags at the time. And indeed, we've learned that red flags were waving for sure.
I value your words and your cautions, Zipperupus, because I value you. And I certainly appreciate your wisdom and your advice. But please, since you haven't walked in my moccasins, I'd ask that you'd also cut me just a bit of slack here in addition. (Thanks in advance.)
I don't pretend to be able to answer every question. Nor do I intend to look up every answer either! We can only pursue what we have time for. And appreciate that by and large the many of us can provide a great deal of complementary information - so that the pooling of that info benefits all of us. So thanks for weighting in!

The War Crimes Act of 1996 (and Torture Act of 2000) are binding U.S. laws, which also uphold international standards, especially Article III of the Geneva Conventions.
The War Crimes Act specifically denies the kinds of defenses that Bush and congress have claimed. Even though they have attempted to provide cover and retroactive immunity (watering down the War Crimes Act in '06 and denial of habeas in the MCA), the SC has rejected exemptions whenever they have heard them (like detainee abuse in Hamden or due process in Boumedienne).
I guess administrations and congress can ignore crimes, provide immunity or change laws, but they can't erase the fact that war crimes were committed under the laws obtaining at the time.
I'd add that as TheraP points out international law (ratified treaties) are as binding as the constitution. If national sovereignty overrides treaties, we can't expect any nation not to torture our soldiers or citizens (or hold them accountable for doing so).
Oops... this was meant as a reply to the first comment. While I'm here, though, great points Zipperupus. But I don't think crimes that were done secretly in the past will be revisited (I believe the Church committee did some of that resulting in some changes in law). I would be happy if recent abuses were investigated.
I think it's very dangerous, right now, to allow powers usurped by the executive to stand unchallenged. It's also very improtant that justice be done (both in terms of holding responsible parties accountable and making amends to innocent people who have suffered). It's also important that the rest of the world sees that we are and have been a nation of laws and don't subscribe to some American exceptionalism, which is contrary to our constitutional doctrine.
Thank you for your comments, Don. Much appreciated.
Sorry TheraP I didn't make myself clear. I am totally against torture and my questions were based on thoughts from your post.
You are correct, I do need to do my own research. Simply thought I would put the questions out there to get a few opinions. Didn't mean to rub you the wrong way. I enjoyed the post.
No need to apologize. You're asking good questions. Some of your questions are very abstract and some are specific. It's often hard to answer abstract questions like "whether law can override ethics and morals". Under Hitler there were laws which people disobeyed because the laws went against their consciences. Others knuckled under out of fear. Some people have died rather than go against what they believed to be ethically and morally wrong - even if it was a law. For example, the early Christians were often killed for refusing to worship the Emperor or the Roman Gods. Then again Christians killed Jews for not converting to Christianity. As you can see, things get very complex.
I'm not sure what your background is, but it sounds like you're suddenly thinking about many things and just now realizing how complicated issues can be.
When I say you need to do some reading and studying, I'm not putting you down. I just mean that there's no way to give you an education in a comment or a blog. We're all learning here. We're all working hard and doing reading. And thinking. That's where the blogs come from.

Thanks for understanding TheraP.
I only have a year of college and a couple of tech schools under my belt. To say I am in the same stratosphere as an Ivy League intellectual would be a lie:) However, I do have 50 plus years of life experience and have met and spoken to people from many walks of life. I'm also extremely curious and love to learn new things. I'm exceptionally opinionated and in your face, sometimes to a fault. Even when I try to hold it back, it sneaks through.
I'm afraid I am who I am. Basically a nice, fun fairly intelligent person. You did hit one nail on the head, I tend to think in the abstract and write the way I think. Reading TPM is helping me on that score. It's not that I'm just now coming to terms with how complicated issues are; I'm trying to think about them in a different way.
Now that we've gotten passed that and hopefully on our way to being friends, I guess this would not be the time to say I did Google a few things and disagree with this statement; "I'd say first read the Constitution. And you'll see that it mandates that treaties be obeyed."
Somehow my sixth sense tells me this is how we got to where we are now. I came to TPM disagreeing with something you said. It was never my intention to be rude and if you felt that way, again, I apologize. Just me and my in your face way again. I promise to work on it but I have to be honest, although I'm constantly working on improving certain skills, overall I really like me. Doesn't always sit well with others but I'm understanding of that, and accept it:)
Hope this helps move us along in a better direction. I've always enjoyed reading your post and have learned a lot from you and many posters.

P.S. I have read and do read the Constitution as well as the Federalist Papers. It just so happens I'm in a a discussion about performance rights and royalties on another blog. Someone is trying to make it into a Constitutional argument, I do not agree.
I currently work with an indie musician handling various and all duties of running a two man record label. Keeping up with many things and subjects is part of what I do.
My best friend happens to be a young lady with a 77 thousand dollar education (she constantly says this) who graduated from law school about 4 years ago. Pretentious as all hell, thinks she is totally grown and knows it all at 27, but very good people and even "ignant" at times. (for the slang impaired, ignant = good, ignorant not so good.
And yep ThearP, I can be a stone, cold arse at times, but a lovable arse I assure you. hahahahaha
Oh yeah, I can't type worth a dayum, my spelling often sucks and my punctuation is atrocious; and all that is on a good day. We just met, it's much too soon to tell you about the bad. LOL
Take care my new friend and nice to meet you.:)
I'd give you one piece of advice. You can't go with reading just one article on the web. Or, rather, of course you can choose to do that if you want, but it certainly won't convince me. (And I'd hope that if you're asking the question, you're not going to base your view on one article that isn't even on a blog, where people could post rebuttals.) If you can find a number of respected legal scholars who take that view, then maybe you can back it up. It's surely an outlier view. There are lots of kooks out on the web. Even here at TPM they come and go. There are those you can trust and those you need to keep an eye on. Sometimes when people are new, it's hard to tell. Especially when they come on strong right off the bat. In time people's personalities become clearer (or not, which presents its own set of difficulties).
I've known many bright and self-educated people in my life. And I've known people with Ph.D.'s who were dolts. So it's not how much education someone has. It's how they think and reason and sift information. Whether they can be both serious and playful - and know the difference.
TPM can be a fun place. And a very high powered place. The Cafe is just one part of it. And the reader blogs only one part of the Cafe.
Sounds like you have a lot of fingers in a lot of pies. And reasons to be reading the Constitution. Many of us have found ourselves forced to learn areas we never thought we'd need to delve into.
We'll see how it goes.
hahahah...I read several but I'm still navigating my way around TPM and not sure how to post multiple links. Thanks for the advice but I basically live on the web. The tech nuances I'm still learning but I agree about never using one source.
My big mouth forced my fingers into all those pies. It has turned out to be the best thing that could have happen to me in my old age. I finally found something I truly enjoy and lo and behold make money. Not a lot so far but hell, that's life and I'm still breathing so there is always hope.
Yes, we shall see. Looking forward to it as a matter of fact, I need to be taken down a peg or two at times, then again...wink!
That's a joke not a threat. LOL
So you're making money posting here?
Well, not me.
LOL, I was referring to the music. Have a great day TheraP.
That's nice to hear!
And I agree, it's good to have something fascinating to do as we grow older!
All well put. Locking up the people who are resposible for these things (done in our names) is change I can believe in.
Although I am not covinced the reasons for this "program" were revenge I have always been struck with the desire in our culture to make somebody pay for a crime even if it is not the persons responsible. That may be where the support for this came from. So many people wanted to believe that these individuals deserved this treatment and they didn't want to hear any different.
If Osamma Ben Laden was captured today I believe he would be handled with kid gloves. If he had been captured by the Bushies I think it would have been much the same. That's why they let him get away. He's one of the elite and you just don't do that sort of thing to the children of priviledge. Besides he knows where the bodies are burried.
Thanks for weighing in here. Yes, people often want revenge when something terrible happens. That's why we have laws and courts. So the accused has rights. And the people don't just form mobs and string people up. But Justice should take its course here. For sure.
If you or I were arrested, we could presume certain things.
And here's what you could presume.
That if the police were confident, rightly or wrongly, that you were connected with a heinous crime and especially, an ongoing crime or with one in which they had a particular interest (murder of fellow officer or highly publicized crime), you could presume -- or you should presume -- that you would be tortured.
The torture wouldn't be as lengthy nor as scientific nor as well monitored as that performed by the CIA, but it would still be torture.
Police have been prosecuted in our county when things like this have occurred. And it's rare. Yes, it can happen. It should not happen. But where I live, it's rare.
It's only rare because the conditions (stated above) which bring it about are rare.
Torture by the USG is, also, rare.
I agree that it seems rare overall, tho' if 50 of 600 at Gitmo etc. were tortured that wouldn't be "rare" under the circumstances.
For some people, any torture instance is one too many. The standard line they get tests commitment to a dogmatic ideology - are there any circumstances in which interrogation is moral? Given that a suspect is forcibly held in custody, some extreme libertarians might argue that it's torture.
It's not so rare that minor physical violence occurs to suspects in custody. When does it cross the line?
In politics the philosophical answer isn't important except to use as offensive or defensive ammo. Such things are "decided" by political will, not ivory tower fine distinctions. But said distinctions might come into play as expert witness testimony in a court case, so it's not irrelevant to legal issues.
What's outrageous, however, is that the OLC of the DoJ would write memos authorizing torture. That's the scandal! That was policy!
authorizing torture... an exercise in "quibbling" at the OLC?

btw, it's still neither bonus nor extortion. :-)

The rights that were brushed aside concern me greatly.
What I fear even more is that the Cheney-directed hit squads have been deployed to follow up on the information derived by torture and executed many possibly innocent individuals.
As you said in your title. It is more than the torture and the rights that were brushed aside. It's the arrogance that the administration concluded that their discretion was the law, and that only they, in secret, could distinguish the bad guys from the good guys.
Time to come clean.

Wow, you have put your finger on something very, very important. And likely all too true. Last week emptywheel had a blog up about how cheney's office was literally running a assassination squads. Here's the link for that blog:
Worth a read! (comments too)
Article 3, where "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person" which mirrors the Declaration of Independence, is the big issue. The last administration touted, world-wide, the concept of 'Liberty' as it denied it to others. The antonym of liberty is slavery, but I feel what we did is even worse. Torture is something that serial killers get a kick out of.
I was reading a book that spoke about Dachau, the WW2 concentration camp, and how the townspeople just didn't want to know what was going on just outside of town. To let our government do what it's done and no-one be culpable is little different than those townspeople who chose to ignore.
Every word you've written is so true, so well said. Thank you for this wonderful comment! Yes, may we bring everything into the light. And never deny people freedom - in the name of freedom.

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