Tuesday, April 25, 2006

THE LONG TERM VIEW--Vol. 6, Number 4--Spring 2006


Are Our Highest Officials Guilty of Torture?

Table of Contents

Introduction Lawrence R. Velvel 3
Torture, Democracy, and the War on Terrorism J. Peter Pham 6
Do Americans Care About Torture? Mitch Wertlieb 18
The Absolute Prohibition of Torture and Ill-Treatment David Weissbrodt 22
A Campaign to Impeach President George W. Bush Francis A. Boyle 43
The Pain Beyond Law Alex Hooke 46
Tortured Logic: Renditions to Justice, Extraordinary Margaret L. Satterthwaite
Rendition, and Human Rights Law & Angelina Fisher 52
The Logic of Torture—Impunity, Democracy, and the Marc Sapir 72
State Power
The Practice of Rendition in the War on Terror Jeffrey F. Addicott 77
America is Guilty of Torture George Phillies 84


Volume 6, Number 4 Spring 2006

Are Our Highest Officials Guilty of Torture?


Lawrence R. Velvel page 3

The use of torture by Americans, the subject of this issue, is a topic in which I have had an interest, and on which I have been posting blogs, for nearly two years, i.e., since close to the time when the first information about torture became public. Unlike typical blogs, the postings have been standard essays, sometimes fairly lengthy ones, of the kind that normally appear not on blogs, but in hard copy. Lots of things that were said in the postings are also said below by writers in this issue of The Long Term View. One cannot, however, begin to explicate in this Introduction all the things that have been said, often quite extensively, either in the blogs, in articles in this issue, or in both.

Those interested in what the writers in this issue have to say will of course read their articles below. Those who may be interested in reading what was said in the blogs in 2004-2005 can read the postings online at VelvelOnNationalAffairs.com, or can now read them in book form because the blogs from 2004-2005 have been published in a book, with postings related to torture forming one separate section of the work and being set forth in chronological order in that section. The book is Blogs From The Liberal Standpoint: 2004-2005, pp. 43-186, and is
available from both Amazon.com and the Massachusetts School of Law. The chronological
organization of the work allows the reader to see what became known about torture at approximately what times, to see what was admitted by government at what times (in general, precious little was admitted), and to get a sense of the flow of information and ideas over time. In this vein, the blogs also tell when it became known beyond dispute that certain ideas the author initially treated as possibilities were in fact true, e.g., that what was done at Abu Ghraib had been done at Guantánamo, that the government descended to torture because it was desperate to try to get information to ward off possible attacks in America and on our soldiers in Iraq, that disgraceful, incompetent legal memos written by right wing zealots in the Department of Justice had been drafted to give attempted legal cover to Bush and company, that the
government wanted to try detainees before military tribunals because it knew it had obtained evidence by means that would cause the evidence to be thrown out in civilian courts, that The New York Times might have been holding back important stories, as became known with certainty when it ran the story about the NSA's spying on civilians with the acknowledgment that it had been sitting on it for a year, and a number of other matters.

In addition to the foregoing, there are numerous other matters written of in the blogs, (and often written of below too). Among other matters, the blogs discuss the

  • There is no question but that George W. Bush, and several of his colleagues like Cheney, Addington, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, and Cambone, are guilty of the federal crime of conspiracy to commit torture, a crime that is a felony punishable by up to life imprisonment under the federal Anti-Torture Statute and that is an impeachable offense.
  • The media and politicians have been loathe to discuss that Bush is guilty of the felony of conspiracy to commit torture. Shockingly, even liberal bloggers have stayed away from the subject. It is, apparently, just too hot to handle.

  • For two reasons the memoranda written by the Department of Justice to try to legalize the torture made it impossible for there ever to be torture. To begin with, the DOJ took the position that, regardless of the pain actually inflicted, torture cannot exist unless its objective is to inflict pain, rather than pain merely being the byproduct of some other objective. But the objective of torture is to get information, not to inflict pain. Pain is only the byproduct of this other objective,
    and therefore there is no torture.

  • Secondly, the DOJ's memos took the position that, if the President, as commander-in-chief, orders or authorizes torture, then it is not a violation of law to torture someone notwithstanding the federal Anti-Torture Statute. What this meant, as was driven home in spades when the story about the President's authorization of spying on civilians by the NSA became public, is that the President can authorize and immunize violations of laws enacted by Congress.

  • As again driven home subsequently by the NSA spying, the claims of presidential
    power undergirding the torture were and are a threat to the civil liberties of all Americans. For if the President can authorize violations of law if he claims this is necessary to protect the country, if he can authorize torture and electronic spying because he says they are necessary to protect the country, then why can't he, for the same reason, order break-ins as Nixon did, authorize the holding of people indefinitely as Bush did, authorize, or at least countenance, murder, as it seems very likely some presidents have done and as Bush surely has in certain ways. No one will be safe from a president who acts badly—which seems to be almost the only kind of president we have gotten since 1960.

  • The DOJ lawyers who wrote the corrupt legal memos giving attempted cover to Bush's actions have been rewarded by federal judgeships, cabinet positions, and high falutin' professorships.

  • Today, members of the media who call George W. Bush incompetent are virtually a drug on the market. But for a very long time almost no members of the media were willing to speak this obvious truth. And of the very few who were, the majority were African American. It says something very undesirable about this country when the very few people who are willing to speak an obvious truth are mainly people whose ancestors were slaves, and persons who come from the long dominant groups eschew speaking the truth.

  • The man ultimately responsible for the torture had a unique preparation and persona for the presidency: he is a former drunk, was a serial failure in business who had to repeatedly be bailed out by daddy's friends and wanna-be-friends, was unable to speak articulately despite the finest education(s) that money and influence can buy, has a dislike of reading, so that 100-page memos have to be boiled down to one page for him, is heedless of facts and evidence, and appears not even to know the meaning of truth. This is a unique preparation for a President and, except for not knowing the truth, is a unique persona for one.

  • It is essential that we begin putting leaders who commit crimes (including torture) into the dock. The failure to do so, combined with the fact that it is not their children but other people's children who fight their (sometimes criminal) wars, has led to wars and, via wars, to torture itself. Putting leaders in the dock is the only way to deter future leaders from committing crimes. This was our theory at Nuremberg. It was our theory about trying Milosevic. Why should it be different for criminals like Johnson, Rush, McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, Nixon, Kissinger, Bush II, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Addington, and others? Indeed, the very length of the list shows the necessity of trying and punishing these people if we want others to be deterred from similar conduct in the future.

There are many other points made in the blogs and/or made below in this issue of LTV. For we do not live in untroubled times, but in days afflicted by the Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. I recommend the entire plethora of points to the reader.