The President's "Program" (the American Way of Torture)
I listened to the President’s press conference this morning as I drove to work and kept hearing about the word “program” and the need for “greater specificity” in Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. At one point, the President got into a strangely jovial exchange with a reporter who had labeled the administration’s proposed legislation “the eavesdropping program and the detainee issues” to which the president responded “We call it the terrorist surveillance program”. He almost seemed to be openly acknowledging his administration’s knack for euphemism and weirder yet he was laughing about it.
After several mentions of the need for greater specificity to protect our hardworking intelligence operatives, I started to notice that as much as he said that Article 3 was too vague for our interrogators to know when they were breaking the law, our President somehow never managed to quote from Article 3 of the Geneva convention.
(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) taking of hostages; (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
Wow, that is really vague. I can see how those MPs and private contractors at Abu Ghraib would now post Hamdan have to ask “Gee, is stacking a bunch of men naked into a human pyramid and violating their intimate body parts either “humiliating or degrading” treatment?
How about Guantamo where they were threatening to step on copies of the Qu’ran in front of the detainees? I’m sure the guards we’re wondering “Wow, that darned article 3 is sure vague. I can’t figure out whether or not this would be adverse distinction based on race or religion.”
Of course, the President’s “program” include items like waterboarding, heat and cold exposure, threatening families, etc. He’s really telling us that American Intelligence need to be able to “torture” their prisoners. Only, it wouldn’t be illegal torture. The only thing that’s vague about the very plain language of the Geneva convention is how the White House might be able to “twist” acts of torture into “tools”, “techniques”, and “program”.
While the President evidently found all of this funny, I was very sad. I was listening to the leader of the “free” world try to convince America that torture, ignoring the rights of detainees, and eavesdropping not on all terrorists but all Americans were somehow the only way to protect “liberty and democracy”.
At one point, a reporter asked “What if other countries decide that they too can reinterpret the Geneva convention as they see fit?”
The President answered, “Well I hope they adopt the same standards we adopt.”
Those standards appear to be well unless you literally do use a rack and thumbscrews, it’s technically not torture. Clearly, shouldn't American Intelligence have the same protections Adolph Eichmann wanted?
I guess this means the President is fine with American combatants being humiliated, degraded, and tortured. This may explain why no member of the Bush family is currently serving in Iraq. He might have added “Boy that Colin Powell sure seemed confused about this stuff.”
In the meantime, the President eloquently spoke about the passing of Ann Richards whom he defeated for governor thanks to Karl Rove’s whisper campaign about lesbians working for the populist governor and what that insinuated about her, “Well….a lot of people loved Ann Richards.”
He did graciously say that he’ll send a representative to the funeral, but explained that he hadn’t decided how far down the totem pole he’d look.
It occurs to me that if the President wants his program and believes in it so strongly, there’s only one way for him to convince me that he’s serious about it. I’d like him to personally use the “tools” he’s specifically trying to authorize through congress with a detainee. I’d like the moment turned into a photo op and I’d like it to run in every newspaper, on every tv news show, and on every blog with the caption, “The self-proclaimed defender of “civilization” demonstrates his respect for freedom and human rights.”
As he says, once other people in the world see democracy in action, it’s irresistible.
I also remember it says in some book somewhere, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."