Add this Page to Facebook!   Submit to Twitter   Submit to Reddit   Submit to Stumble Upon   Pin It!   Fark It!   Tell A Friend  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite Save As Favorite View Article Stats
1 comment

Life Arts

Torture Team - Book Review

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

Headlined to H4 3/20/09
Become a Fan
  (8 fans)

opednews.com

Torture Team – Deception, Cruelty and the Compromise of Law. Philippe Sands. Allen Lane, Penguin. New York. 2008.

 

Singularities

As with the one action paper signed by Rumsfield, much of the evidence comes from a singular detainee, Detainee 063 (Mohammed al-Qahtani) whose record of torture is described in an Interrogation Log over a period of several months. Around the one piece of paper and the one detainee is a history of the attempted subversion of international law, and the evasions and rationales used by the chain of command to avoid culpability.

As another singularity, much of the argument is based on Common Article 3 - labelled so because it appears in each of the four Geneva Conventions – prohibiting "cruel treatment and torture, as well as 'outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." A violation of this article "would be a war crime, leading to possible investigation in many countries," indeed it is incumbent on signatory countries to prosecute war crimes. Further "There are no exceptions to Common Article 3 – not even necessity or national security," making anyone who contravenes it "an international outlaw."

A final singularity appears later in the book when Sands discusses the situation in comparison with Nuremberg and a particular Nazi government official, a lawyer, whose argument acted within the same parameters as those presented to Douglas Feith. While Sands agrees that the actual actions are not comparable on scale, the arguments presented as lawyers trying to avoid culpability are similar.

Feith and U.S. exceptionalism

Douglas Feith (apparently pronounced 'Fife'), Undersecretary of Defence for Policy, is one of the main characters in the history. He is one of the "chicken hawk" neocons advocating for a new world order, arguing that the war on terror is a "new kind of war." The Bush administration and its many other neocon supporters argue that the world changed on 9/11, that the U.S. was fighting a new type of war, against non-state actors. An external view of the situation more correctly identifies that the world remained essentially the same, as non-state insurgents and jihadists had been active for some time, propelled to their modern image by the U.S. itself in liaison with Pakistan during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Yes, something in the U.S. changed, but not its record of foreign military interventions, but its outward attitude that now it could what it wanted openly against the terrorists.

Feith claims that the U.S. is "entitled to moral authority," that it is "one of the few governments that actually is entitled to moral authority." As this is a self-professed, self-claimed authority, it has no claim to reality, to any moral superiority over any other country or culture. It is another of the many claims to U.S. exceptionalism, most of which are self-proclaimed and contrary to evidence – the actions taken do not support the grand rhetoric and jingoism that go with them.

Complicity

Sands continues with his arguments carefully, arriving at the conclusion that the "most senior lawyers bear direct responsibility for decisions that led to violations of the Geneva Conventions." He notes that they have "immunity from criminal process [as] built into US law, and to which several of these lawyers contributed."

Complicity in the war crimes reaches much deeper than that. In consultation with European sources, Sands reveals the extent of that complicity. The development of war crimes conventions after World War II made a doctrine from which "there would be no refuge for the torturer or the international criminal," with duties imposed "on every person who was involved in the decision-making process." As for the legal advice, any writing that "had opened the door to abuse or even torture...on specific individuals, then in theory the responsibility would go back to the author of the legal advice...." Avoiding the issue does not help either, as "contributing to the avoidance of an investigation of a crime could itself give rise to complicity."

The societal impact of 9/11 on U.S. culture in its broadest sense was enormous. Having long before 'won' the Cold War with the Soviet Union, "a pervasive sense of threat...hung in the air a year after the September 11 attacks." Much of that "palpable and real" fear was created deliberately under the neocon culture that could now focus the U.S. citizen's worries on the new 'global war on terror.' 9/11 "gave rise to a conscious decision to set aside international rules constraining interrogation. Along with that "A new culture of cruelty had been unleashed," one that captured Europe as well, as the "CIA's programme of 'extraordinary rendition' was the product of the same mindset, and it seems to have ensnared various European and other countries in a culture of complicity."

The actions taken were not "mere accident or oversight," but were "motivated by a combination of factors, including fear and ideology and an almost visceral disdain for international obligations."

Into the future

Starting from a few singularities Sands draws broad sweeping conclusions on the complicity of many levels of the U.S. government and its advocates and advisors. It reaches overseas into NATO's (and other nation's) complicity in the rendition program. It is also the cause of the actions taken at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Many in the Bush administration and those that served them fall into Sand's description of complicity in war crimes.

It leaves a lingering question – if "contributing to the avoidance of an investigation" results in complicity, wherein do the actions of Barak Obama fall? He has given a deadline for the termination of the Guantanamo detention centre, he has sworn that within the U.S. torture will not be used, but nothing has apparently changed with overseas renditions, and he has indicated that he would not "look back" and prosecute anyone for war crimes. The final chapter of Torture Team has yet to be lived and written, but it is a valuable and strongly researched work up to that point.

 

Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews to Palestine Chronicles. His interest in this topic stems originally from an (more...)
 
Add this Page to Facebook!   Submit to Twitter   Submit to Reddit   Submit to Stumble Upon   Pin It!   Fark It!   Tell A Friend
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
1 people are discussing this page, with 1 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

Having seen the video of the debate between Sand a... by William Whitten on Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 at 8:51:13 PM

 

Tell a Friend: Tell A Friend


Copyright © 2002-2014, OpEdNews

Powered by Populum