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Torturing the Truth

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President Bush has assured Americans that "We do not torture " . Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has traveled around the world, assuring everyone that "We do not torture " . I guess it all depends on your definition of "torture ".

• "Torture under the law is described as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Waterboarding or mock drownings, sleep deprivation, beatings, shackles and other horrors apparently do not fall into the administration 's definition of torture. " --Helen Thomas, D.C.-based columnist for the Hearst Newspapers, 12/11/05

Personally, I think watching a Bush news conference qualifies as torture, but everyone has their own definition. One man 's torture is another fraternity prank. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh 's response to the first photos from Abu Ghraib prison:

• "This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we 're going to ruin people 's lives over it and we 're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. ...I 'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off? " --Limbaugh 's radio show, 4/4/04

Bear in mind that this is the opinion of someone who avoided military service during the Viet Nam War because of his "anal cysts ". On the other hand, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was a prisoner of war in Viet Nam, and knows first-hand about torture.

• "In response [to the Abu Ghraib revelations], Sen. John McCain, himself a victim of brutal torture by the North Vietnamese, introduced an amendment to the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act that would, in essence, require all agencies of the U.S. government to comply with the Geneva Conventions and international law, which prohibit torture. " --The Washington Post, 9/9/05


The Bush Administration fought hard against McCain 's amendment. President Bush threatened to veto the entire military spending bill, if the anti-torture amendment was not withdrawn; and Vice President Cheney met with McCain several times, trying to get him to change his amendment.

• "[Cheney 's proposal] would give the president the power to allow government agencies outside the Defense Department (the administration has in mind the C.I.A.) 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 C.I.A. is said to be operating around the world and obviate the need for the torture outsourcing known as extraordinary rendition. " --New York Times, 10/26/05

Senator McCain stood his ground, and the Senate passed his anti-torture amendment 90 to 9.
President Bush finally relented and made a photo-op out of signing the legislation; but he also quietly signed a "presidential signing statement ", saying that he could ignore the law and do what he wanted, when he wanted, to whomever he wanted, anytime he wanted to --reasserting that he is not bound by the laws of ordinary men.

• "In a series of executive orders beginning in October 2001, Bush has declared his peremptory right to capture, imprison, indefinitely detain or even assassinate anyone in the world whom he arbitrarily and secretly designates an 'enemy ' - without any legal process at all, as reported over the years by the Washington Post, the L.A. Times and many others. " --The Moscow Times, 2/3/05

It is only in Bush 's New World Order that anyone might think that we need an amendment to outlaw torture. The United States already has laws and signed treaties that ban torture.

• "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. " --Article 2 of the UN Convention (to which we the U.S. is a party)

• "[The Torture Act of 2000 - 18 U.S.C. § § 2340 - 2340A - 2340B] makes it a federal crime for any U.S. national [or citizen] (or anyone later found present in the United States) to commit torture or conspire or attempt to commit torture outside the United States. Crimes under the Torture Act are punishable by fine and/or imprisonment up to 20 years; or, if the victim dies, by life imprisonment or death. " --Human Rights First, quoted on AdeebMedia.com, 11/21/05

Since Mr. Bush 's war of choice began, ninety-eight detainees have died in U.S. custody. Forty-five of those deaths are suspected or confirmed homicides (at least 8, and as many as 12 of these prisoners were tortured to death). Only 12 of these deaths have resulted in any kind of punishment, and so far, the severest punishment for a torture-related death has been 5 months confinement (Human Rights First, Comprehensive Report on Detainee Deaths in U.S. Custody, 2/22/06) .

• "The de facto principles governing the punishment of U.S. personnel guilty of prisoner abuse since 2002 now are clear: Torturing a foreign prisoner to death is excusable. Authoring and implementing policies of torture may lead to promotion. But being pictured in an Abu Ghraib photograph that leaks to the press is grounds for a heavy prison sentence. " --The Washington Post, 2/28/06

If there was a Nobel Prize for Hypocrisy, George W. Bush would be a shoe-in:

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Mick Youther is an American citizen, an independent voter, a veteran, a parent, a Christian, a scientist, a writer, and all-around nice guy who has been aroused from a comfortable apathy by the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush Administration.

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Thank-you for keeping this in front of our eyes. I... by on Saturday, Apr 8, 2006 at 11:40:40 AM