Cheney seeks to legalize torture 4

From the Herald Today

Amid all the natural and political disasters it faces, the White House is certainly tireless in its effort to legalize torture. This week, Vice President Dick Cheney proposed a novel solution for the moral and legal problems raised by the use of American soldiers to abuse prisoners and the practice of turning captives over to governments willing to act as proxies in doing the torturing. Cheney wants to make it legal for the Central Intelligence Agency to do this wet work.

Cheney’s proposal was made in secret to Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who won the votes of 89 other senators this month to require the civilized treatment of prisoners at camps run by America’s military and intelligence agencies. McCain’s legislation, an amendment to the Defense Department budget bill, would ban the “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of prisoners. In other words, it would impose age-old standards of democracy and decency on the new prisons.

President Bush’s threat to veto the entire military budget over this issue was bizarre enough by itself, considering that the amendment has the support of more than two dozen former military leaders, including Colin Powell. They know that torture doesn’t produce reliable intelligence and endangers Americans’ lives.

But Cheney’s proposal was even more ludicrous. It would give the president the power to allow government agencies outside the Defense Department (the administration has in mind the CIA) to mistreat and torture prisoners as long as that behavior was part of “counterterrorism operations conducted abroad” and they were not American citizens. That would neatly legalize the illegal prisons the CIA is said to be operating around the world and obviate the need for the torture outsourcing known as extraordinary rendition.

McCain was right to reject this absurd proposal. The House should reject it as well.

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4 thoughts on “Cheney seeks to legalize torture

  • dn

    dear Craig,

    howdy, keep up your very interesting and much needed work, i often read your logs and they are very much appreciated. i find trying to understand these times we live in difficult, but your writing helps alot to make some sense of so many crazy things that are happening.

    keep up the great work !


  • Nagging Doubt

    After all of the other excuses for the invasion of Iraq have been shown to be lies, the US/UK fell back on the weak excuse that it was all really about democracy and freedom. Now they want to legitimise torture.

    Now, I've not checked with my Democracy Handbook, but I'm fairly sure that politicians legalising torture without consulting the electorate, and spooks performing torture in secret prisons, aren't things that democratic governments are supposed to do. They are things that totalitarian governments do. Does this mean that the final lie has been exposed? And was Norman Mailer was right to refer to the US as "pre-fascist"?

    I'm not talking about glib comparisons with the Nazis. It's more like the US/UK are heading towards something like Italian Fascism. ("The first stage of fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power." — a quote usually attributed to Benito Mussolini, but actually written by the Fascist philosopher Giovanni Gentile.) Votes are becoming ever more meaningless, and are merely used as a tool to justify support for whatever the government wants to do. (Hence Geoff Hoon's recent suggestion that voting become compulsory.) The real voting goes on in the background, in a manner similar to that at a shareholders meeting: the more money you donate to a party, the more say you have in how it is run. And only parties with sufficiently large funds (and easy access to the corporate run media) realistically have a chance of winning an election. With the tendency of big business to donate to both of the Big Two parties, it is not surprising that the Big Two have become two halves of the Big One, differing only in rhetoric regarding hot-button topics (multiculturalism v anti-immigration, or pro-choice v pro-life, etc.). This is true of both the US and UK.

    Public services and the state schools are being sold off without public consultation, and draconian "anti-terror" laws passed, which are increasingly being used to stifle dissent. And now torture is being officially sanctioned. Are we fighting for democracy and freedom, or against it?


  • Craig

    I am afraid I have to agree with Nagging Doubt. Five years ago, I would have thought it impossible that the government could be arguing before the Law Lords for the right to use material from torture. It is amazing how complicit the media are. Blair's education plans were portrayed by the media as 2Plans to deliver schools from Local Authority control". They could equally have been portrayed as plans to remove shools from the control of local democratically elected councils, and place them instead in the hands of rich individuals and corporations or bug-eyed born-again christians.

    It is deeply sad, and the media brainwashing is so complete most peoplejust don't care.

  • Nagging Doubt

    I don't think people are brainwashed by the media. Most people are smarter than the media give them credit for. The nearest there is to brainwashing occurs within the media, government, academia, etc. Most people still regard politicians as liars, corrupt and not interested in the people they claim to represent. When you see the way some in the media fawn over politicians, it is clear that they are out of touch with popular opinion.

    And I'm not sure that most people don't care. The two million people who marched in London against the war in Iraq clearly cared, and I bet plenty who didn't march also cared. In the case of extraordinary rendition, I think that most people are probably unaware that it is happening. As for education "reform", I think most people don't really understand what is actually going on. If the media covered these issues more prominently, and actually did their job and critically examined these issues, then I think plenty of people would care.

    The greatest problem is that people feel helpless, and the biggest lie is that they are helpless. They are not, and the government is starting to figure that out — hence all of the legislation being passed to deal with protesters.

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