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Torture Is Over (if we want it)

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The president has publicly admitted that since the 9-11 attacks in 2001, the US has been kidnapping and transporting against the will of the subject (renditioning) in its so-called "war" on terror—even people captured by US personnel in friendly nations like Sweden, Germany, Macedonia and Italy—and ferrying them to places like Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, and to prisons operated in Eastern European countries, African Countries and Middle Eastern countries where security forces are known to practice torture.

These people are captured and held indefinitely, without any charges being filed, and are held without being identified to the Red Cross, or to their families. Many are clearly innocent, and several cases, including one in Canada and one in Germany, have demonstrably been shown subsequently to have been in error, because of a similarity of names or because of misinformation provided to US authorities.

Such a policy is in clear violation of US and International Law, and has placed the United States in the position of a pariah state.  The CIA has no law enforcement authority, and cannot legally arrest or detain anyone. The program of "extraordinary rendition" authorized by the president is the substantial equivalent of the policies of "disappearing" people, practices widely practiced and universally condemned in the military dictatorships of Latin America during the late 20th Century.

The administration has claimed that prior administrations have practiced extraordinary rendition, but, while this is technically true, earlier renditions were used only to capture people with outstanding arrest warrants or convictions who were outside in order to deliver them to stand trial or serve their sentences in the US. The president has refused to divulge how many people have been subject to extraordinary rendition since September, 2001. It is possible that some have died in captivity. As one US official has stated off the record, regarding the program, Some of those who were renditioned were later delivered to Guantanamo, while others were sent there directly. An example of this is the case of six Algerian Bosnians who, immediately after being cleared by the Supreme Court of Bosnia Herzegovina in January 2002 of allegedly plotting to attack the US and UK embassies, were captured, bound and gagged by US special forces and renditioned to Guantanamo.

In perhaps the most egregious proven case of rendition, Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria, was picked up in September 2002 while transiting through New York's JFK airport on his way home to Canada. Immigration and FBI officials detained and interrogated him for nearly two weeks, illegally denying him his rights to access counsel, the Canadian consulate, and the courts. Executive branch officials asked him if he would volunteer to go to Syria, where he hadn't been in 15 years, and Maher refused

Maher was put on a private jet plane operated by the CIA and sent to Jordan, where he was beaten for 8 hours, and then delivered to Syria, where he was beaten and interrogated for 18 hours a day for a couple of weeks. He was whipped on his back and hands with a 2 inch thick electric cable and asked questions similar to those he had been asked in the United States. For over ten months Maher was held in an underground grave-like cell – 3 x 6 x 7 feet – which was damp and cold, and in which the only light came in through a hole in the ceiling. After a year of this, Maher was released without any charges. He is now back home in Canada with his family. Upon his release, the Syrian Government announced he had no links to Al Qaeda, and the Canadian Government has also said they've found no links to Al Qaeda. The Canadian Government launched a Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar, to investigate the role of Canadian officials, but the Bush Administration has refused to cooperate with the Inquiry.

Hundreds of flights of CIA-chartered planes have been documented as having passed through European countries on extraordinary rendition missions like that involving Maher Arar, but the administration refuses to state how many people have been subjects of this illegal program.

The same U.S. laws prohibiting aiding and abetting torture also prohibit sending someone to a country where there is a substantial likelihood they may be tortured. Article 3 of CAT prohibits forced return where there is a "substantial likelihood" that an individual "may be in danger of" torture, and has been implemented by federal statute. Article 7 of the ICCPR prohibits return to country of origin where individuals may be "at risk" of either torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Under international Human Rights law, transferring a POW to any nation where he or she is likely to be tortured or inhumanely treated violates Article 12 of the Third Geneva Convention, and transferring any civilian who is a protected person under the Fourth Geneva Convention is a grave breach and a criminal act.

In situations of armed conflict, both international human rights law and humanitarian law apply. A person captured in the zone of military hostilities "must have some status under international law; he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, [or] a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention….There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law." Although the state is obligated to repatriate Prisoners of War as soon as hostilities cease, the ICRC's commentary on the 1949 Conventions states that prisoners should not be repatriated where there are serious reasons for fearing that repatriating the individual would be contrary to general principles of established international law for the protection of human beings Thus, all of the Guantánamo detainees as well as renditioned captives are protected by international human rights protections and humanitarian law.

By his actions as outlined above, the President has abused his power, broken the law, deceived the American people, and placed American military personnel, and indeed all Americans—especially those who may travel or live abroad--at risk of similar treatment. Furthermore, in the eyes of the rest of the world, the President has made the US, once a model of respect for Human Rights and respect for the rule of law, into a state where international law is neither respected nor upheld.

In all of these actions and decisions in violation of United States and International law,  President George W. Bush has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and Commander in Chief, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President George W. Bush, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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