Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Why Bush & Co. Are Criminals

"The soldiers at the bottom of the chain are taking the heat for Abu Ghraib and torture around the world, while the guys at the top who made the policies are going scott free. That's simply not right."

Scott Brody, Special Counsel, Human Rights Watch

It's genuinely astounding, this game the US government is playing with the American public. Everyone in the nation either knows or should know--the documentation is available for the asking--that "enhanced interrogation" is sanctioned by the President and all his underlings. Everyone also knows that "enhanced interrogation" is a thin euphemism for torture. Whenever a government official uses the term, it's always with a wink and a nudge. We're not really deceived by the term, and they know we're not really deceived. But so long as no one breaks the rules of this cynical game by actually uttering the torture word, so long as we all continue to make nice by loudly proclaiming that torture isn't The American Way, we can continue the charade. We can pretend that state-sponsored and public-sanctioned enhanced interrogation isn't torture, and that when torture does happen, it's the act of individual goons acting on their own.
It's time to end the game. Torture is sanctioned at the highest level, and torture is criminal. The American public is complicitous in this crime--guilty after the fact, if you will, by not denouncing torture and removing those officials responsible for it--and this complicity calls for justice. But more immediately, President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, and Major General Geoffrey Miller--and this is only the first echalon of felons--should be prosecuted, convicted, and punished. They are criminals. They ordered torture at Abu Ghraib. They denied their own complicity. They have continued the policy of torture since Abu Ghraib.
In doing so, they have at least violated:

1. Article VI of the United States Constitution: "This Constitution and the laws of the United States shall be made in pursuance thereof and all treaties made or which shall be made under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land. Any provision of an international treaty ratified by the United States becomes the law of the United States."

  • The US is a signatory to the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." (Art. 5)
  • The US endorses the 1949 Geneva Convention which prohibits the torture of any prisoner, whether a formal prisoner of war, a saboteur, or a resistance fighter in a civil war.
  • The US approved the 1975 UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture.
  • The US agreed to the 1992 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. (Art. 7) This provision is non-derogable--cannot be suspended--even "during time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation."
  • The US signed onto the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture.

2. Ashcraft v State of Tennessee (1944), in which the US Supreme Court overturned a murder conviction based on a confession extracted under torture. Chief Justice Hugo Black wrote the decision that banned coercive interrogations:

"The Constitution of the United States stands as a bar against the conviction of any individual in an American court by means of a coerced confession. There have been, and are now, certain foreign nations with governments dedicated to an opposite policy: governments which convict individuals with testimony obtained by police organizations possessed of an unrestrained power to seize persons suspected of crimes against the state, hold them in secret custody, and wring from them confessions by physical or mental torture. So long as the Constitution remains the basic law of our Republic, America will not have that kind of government."
3. Columbe v Connecticut (1961), in which the US Supreme Court reaffirmed the ban on coerced confessions and stated that "neither the body nor the mind may be twisted until it breaks."

4. Filartiga v Pena-Irala (1980), in which the Second Circuit Court ruled that "Turning to the act of torture, we have little difficulty discerning its universal renunciation in the modern practice and usage of nations."

5. Hudson v McMillian (1992), in which the US Supreme Court ruled against the sadistic disciplining of prisoners.

6. Hope v Pelzer (2002), in which the US Supreme Court ruled that the "unnecessary infliction of pain" upon prisoners is "both degrading and dangerous," and furthermore ruled that guards inflicting such pain have no legal immunity.

Why, then, aren't the multiple violations of Article VI and Supreme and Circuit Court rulings being prosecuted? Why aren't Bush & Co. behind bars? Tomorrow's post explores this question. Some previews: US v Verdugo-Urquidez, Sosa v Alvarez-Machain, and the Military Commissions Act. Oh, yeah. And public indifference.

"The official position of defendants, whether as heads of state or responsible officials in government departments, shall not be considered as freeing them from responsibility or mitigating punishment."
Nuremberg Charter, Art. 7