Author’s Note: This was originally published on my Facebook page on December 18, 2014, during the blog devotion to victims of police misconduct. Since I instituted a policy against posting anything to take away from it, there are a couple of things that I posted to other mediums. This is one of them and it focuses on the brevity of what was affirmed to the American people following the release of the report surrounding the CIA’s use of advanced interrogation techniques during the War on Terror.
“[Torture is] any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or another person acting in an official capacity… No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” — United Nations, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)
From November 20, 1945 through the end of 1947, the Nuremberg Trials saw the sentencing and execution of many notorious Nazi personalities for the heinous acts and crimes they committed during the Holocaust and the Second World War. Among these infractions were acts of terrorism, torture, propaganda, genetic experimentation, and mass genocide. Following these proceedings, a variety of international laws were enacted, developing what would become modern international criminal law, including the Genocide Convention in 1948, the Geneva Convention on the Laws and Customs of War in 1949, and the 1968 Convention on the Abolition of the Statute of Limitations on War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.
On December 2, 2014, in light of newly discovered evidence, the government of Ireland decided to ask the European Convention on Human Rights to revise their 1978 judgement on Operation Demetrius, a 1971 incident during The Troubles which saw the British Army mass arrest and intern 342 people suspected of being involved with the Irish Republican Army. Fourteen of these detainees — known as “the Hooded Men” — were subjected to the full scope of what are known as the “five techniques” (interrogation methods utilized by British security forces during The Troubles) — wall-standing, hooding, subjection to noise, deprivation of sleep, and deprivation of nourishment — while also having their heads slammed into walls, having been shot with blank rounds, and having been threatened with injections. Other detainees were allegedly subjected to certain aspects of the “five techniques,” along with waterboarding, electric shocks, foot-whipping, burning, and genital trauma, along with being forced to stand over electric fires while sustaining a beating and having objects forcefully inserted into their anuses. The result of these methods were horrifying, including severe physical and mental exhaustion, severe anxiety, depression, hallucinations, disorientation, and repeated loss of consciousness.
During the 2003 War in Iraq, members of the United States Army and the Central Intelligence Agency committed a variety of human rights violations on detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, including physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape, sodomy, and murder. Amnesty International and the Associated Press brought the incidents to light in late 2003, to which the administration of then-President George W. Bush attempted to pass off as isolated incidents that were not part of the United States’ policies. Further investigations showed that these incidents were not isolated, but part of a larger scope of policies the United States had taken in regard to prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Furthermore, there existed evidence that authorizations for these actions to be taken against these prisoners came from the top ranks in the military hierarchy, and that even Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had authorized some of these actions himself. A few years later, legal memoranda from 2002 drafted by United States Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and signed by United States Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee — the “Torture Memos” — came to light. These documents advised the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States Department of Defense, and President George W. Bush on the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and further stated that the techniques, while generally regarded as torture, might have been legally acceptable under an expansive interpretation of presidential authority during the “War on Terror.”
On December 9, 2014, the bipartisan United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a 525-page portion of the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which consisted of reports of acts of torture being lobbied against suspected terrorists. These acts included waterboarding, mental and physical torment and coercion (such as prolonged sleep deprivation), the “five techniques,” nakedness, subjection to extreme cold, rectal violation (including forced feeding), rape, and threats of physical and sexual abuse directed at family members of the detainees, including their children.
It is unfortunate, appalling, and terrifying that these atrocities still take place, and furthermore disgusting that actions like the ones detailed above, to some, are justified because of “circumstances.” During the media frenzy following the release of the report detailing the Central Intelligence Agency’s programs for detention and interrogation, a whirlwind of differing opinions and ideologies assaulted the eyes and ears of the public both in the United States and abroad. Ashraf Ghani, the President of Afghanistan, called the report “shocking” and said the actions “violated all accepted norms of human rights in the world,” while Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan defended the actions as legitimate and “patriotic” in the wake of the September 11th terror attacks. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) said the enhanced interrogation techniques utilized during the Bush administration had “stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good” and Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said the government should have a moral stance against torture, while peers such as Senators Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) said the report’s release was solely motivated to embarrass and attack former President George W. Bush, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) criticized Democrats for putting out the report since, according to him, all the report will do is infuriate terrorists, while Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) says he is “very supportive of enhanced interrogation.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has called upon United States Attorney General Eric Holder to bring criminal charges against the men and women responsible for the perpetration and sanctioning of the acts committed by the United States on detainees during the Bush administration.
And Holder absolutely should.
With the 1988 signing and the 1994 ratification of the 1984 treaty the United Nations drafted forbidding torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment worldwide, the United States took an oath to not commit those barbarous acts for which they prosecuted Nazi’s in the aftermath of World War II. The United States committed to assisting in the removal of such acts worldwide and proclaimed to the world that torturous and cruel actions are a clear violation of what it means to be human, are ethically reprehensible, and are a blight on our existence. Yet, fifteen years following the signing of that treaty, the United States government under President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (then-National Security Advisor), the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States military, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense broke the nation’s promise with extreme prejudice and committed inhuman acts against men and women suspected of being linked to terrorism. Never mind that the 1984 United Nations treaty the United States committed to enforcing explicitly stated that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever justified the use of torture, and furthermore, never mind that the behavior in which the United States participated during the Bush administration is the same kind of behavior the United States claimed to be fighting against via the “War on Terror.”
Hypocrisy is a vile cloak.
The actions perpetrated by officials within, and during the tenure of, the presidential administration of George Walker Bush cannot be allowed to slip into the annals of time and pages of collegiate history books. It is important for the American people and their representatives, along with the representatives and the public of many, many other nations around the world, to hold these men and women accountable for what they have done, to enforce the ethics of human existence laid out in 1984 by the United Nations, and to ensure that no heinous deed, even those committed by governments, go unpunished. This kind of behavior, where the humanity of our enemies is subject to approval, cannot be allowed to continue manifesting in our world as we continue our journey into the 21st Century. The actions of the United States government documented in the recent reports bear no difference from the actions believed to be heinous in our world. During the Bush administration, the United States government proved to the world that they and the terrorist regimes they strove to eradicate were just two sides of the same coin, an ideological Siamese twin attached at the breast. The United States government documented in those reports was not a righteous or just government, but a perverted government and an evil government. During the Bush administration, the United States government was a terrorist organization and accountability must be enforced. That era of United States history succeeded in straining international relationships and severing others, and it may only be by putting the men and women responsible for these actions through a similar process the Nazi’s endured at Nuremberg that strained and severed international relationships may once again begin to heal.
The leftover demons from the Bush administration must be exorcised. The image of the United States, now more than ever, needs to be rehabilitated.