The Torture President

The Sacramento Bee (California), March 25, 2008

By Nat Hentoff

Immediately after 9/11, Colin Powell said the terrorists were clearly engaged in a war on civilization itself. Soon after, as secretary of State, he prophetically warned the president — and the lawyers drafting and justifying “torture memos” in the Justice Department — that this country’s rejecting the Geneva Conventions and our own laws on the treatment of terrorism-related prisoners would “undermine public support among critical allies, making military cooperation more difficult to sustain.” Increasingly, as Powell predicted, while the president strongly insists that the CIA be allowed to continue practicing what Bush calls “its specialized interrogations” in its secret prisons, and “renditions” (kidnapping Europeans to be tortured elsewhere), we have lost the trust and respect of many our allies’ citizens.

Significant, moreover, is the refusal of FBI Director Robert Mueller to permit his agents to engage in such “coercive” CIA-style interrogations that often involve torture.

Also opposing the tortured use of language by high officials of the administration to disguise this lawless treatment of prisoners, which would make any such “evidence” thrown out of our federal courts, are Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Nonetheless, on March 8, George W. Bush vetoed a bill that includes a mandate that there be a single standard of interrogation by all our forces — very intentionally including the CIA.

As a result of Bush’s veto, the United States, by validating torture as a tool of interrogation, has become a less civilized nation. The bill the president disdained (thereby staining his legacy) would have made the Army Field Manual the standard of all interrogations. Among the practices it prohibits are: placing hoods or sacks over prisoners’ heads (as in CIA “renditions”); exposing them to extreme heat or cold (as often reported); and waterboarding (as disclosed about CIA prisoners at “black sites”), a procedure that makes the prisoner believe he is about to drown — and he will drown if it’s not stopped.

Continued . . .


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