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Torture on the 4th of July

By       Message Lawrence Gist     Permalink
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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H4 7/4/09

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The United States celebrates its Independence Day on July 4th, often marked by grandiose patriotic displays, yet seldom do we take the time to seriously contemplate the true meaning of patriotism.

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This year's Independence Day celebrations come just two days after Justice Department recanted on the public release an unclassified version of the CIA Inspector General's 2004 Report into the interrogations of "high-value detainees" in the "War on Terror." Congressional staffers described the report as the "holy grail," according to Greg Sargent of the Plum Line, writing in May, "because it is expected to detail torture in unprecedented detail and to cast doubt on the claim that torture works."

As a patriot who fought and sacrificed for our country, I ask all Americans to stand up for what is civil, humane and right. If we don't demand accountability for the crimes that were committed in our name, then we as a nation will have effectively institutionalized the torture of the last eight years. Let's keep the promise for ourselves and all humanity, the promise that is our United States of America. - Phillip Butler (8 Years as a POW)

What does Independence Day mean to those  individuals still being illegally detained? What does Independence Day mean to those having been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques? techniques that both the international community and our own jurisprudence define as torture. And what does Independence Day mean to Kenneth Mosley? Mr. Mosley is scheduled to be executed on July 16th using of a three-drug lethal injection protocol which is so inhuman as to be described as torture in a growing body of scientific peer-reviewed journals. In fact, the three-drug lethal injection protocol used in Texas has the potential to cause such extreme prolonged pain and suffering, that it is illegal to use the protocol is to kill animals.

The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, signed and ratified by the United States, requires that we as a nation not only prevent torture, but prosecute those individuals authorizing torture. However, on this Independence Day, we must ask why former President George W. Bush is not being held accountable for the illegal actions he authorized? We must ask why former Vice-President Dick Cheney is not being held accountable for the illegal actions he authorized? and we must ask why Texas Governor Rick Perry is not being held accountable for the illegal actions he continues to authorize? We must also question why Governor Perry is not prosecuted for the illegal distribution and use (Codified within Texas and Federal Law) of FDA scheduled drugs without a license. Governor Perry may be compare to a drug pusher, but rather than selling a little marijuana to a dieing cancer patient, he illegally distributes three drugs which often causes torturous prolonged pain and suffering, and he does so repetedely. In fact, on July 16th Kenneth Mosley will be the 201st person to be executed during Perry's tenure in office.

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Yet we as a nation must ask why we have failed to hold these "patriots" accountable for their illegal actions? The answer seems to come easy for many of our friends and neighbors who claim that these "patriots" were only trying to keep us safe, or that the methods used did not raise to the level of torture, but even if it did, who cares if the bad guys suffer a little pain.

However, what guidance does the law provide us in answering questions such as these? Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, defines torture as: "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person." To better understand the personal nature of torture, one need only turn to the experiences of a true patriot, Phillip Butler, awarded two Silver Stars, two Legion of Merits, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Heart medals, and who also spent almost eight years as a POW after being shot down over North Vietnam.

Remembering those horrific years as a POW, Butler said the during his captivity, he and his fellow POW's "were regularly subject to torture, harassment, malnutrition, isolation, lack of medical care, and other degradations during our captivity. I was tortured dozens of times during my captivity. I often thought of our Constitution and the higher purpose we served - a purpose that helped me resist beyond what I thought I'd ever be capable of. Ironically, we POWs received great moral and psychological strength during our incarceration, telling each other, 'Our country is civilized and would never knowingly treat people like this. Our country would never stoop to torture and the low level of treatment we were experiencing at the hands of our captors.'" Butler said, "we felt we had the moral high ground and took great pride in being American, above such barbarity."

However on this 4th of July, Butler questions if we as a nation will "demand that President Obama live up to his stated promise that 'no one is above the law?' Will we hold the new administration to the Constitution, treaties and other statutes prohibiting such cruel and unusual punishments and demand accountability for the shameful legacy of torture that has tarnished America's reputation over the last eight years?" This patriot states that he is in "despair when [thinking] of the personal sacrifices made by so many in U.S. wars and conflicts since 1776. If our forefathers were here to see, they would surely be angry and disappointed. And I think they would issue a clarion call for redress and setting an example for the world by holding accountable the perpetrators of these crimes."

This 4th of July, I will forgo the parades and picnics. I shall attempt to honor to those patriots, like Phillip Butler, by joining with my fellow veterans and making our collective voice heard, that we as a nation are better than our recent past actions would indicate. This 4th of July I will proudly utilize my First Amendment right to speak, protest, and demand that the country of my birth live up to the honorable goals upon which it was founded. We own nothing less to all those past and present patriots who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms and human rights which so many seem to have forgotten.

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Lawrence J. Gist II is a dedicated pro bono attorney and counselor at law, adjunct professor of legal studies at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, CA, a member of the board of directors of the Institute of Indigenous Knowledges, and a veteran (more...)

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