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The Torture Test

By Ray McGovern

Yesterday’s Washington Post article by Dana Priest regarding CIA-run secret prisons abroad brings the issue of torture front and center once again and prompts these comments from former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. Ray now works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C.

The next several days will show whether our Congress has slipped its moral moorings. Seldom have moral lines been so clearly drawn. The issue is whether American armed forces and intelligence personnel should be permitted or forbidden to torture detainees. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are expected to decide whether to ban torture against all prisoners held by the United States, to merely ban torture for some of those prisoners, or to reject outright any attempt to legislate a new ban on torture. The White House and the CIA are lobbying to exempt detainees held by the CIA from an amendment— sponsored by John McCain and endorsed by nearly all senators—that would ban "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment for all detainees held by the United States.

The context for the White House position is key. After the publication in of the Abu Ghraib photos in 2004, the administration released a raft of documents claiming these documents showed that there was no policy allowing the abuse of prisoners. It was surreal; the documents showed just the opposite. It was as though the White House thought we couldn’t read.

Most striking was a memorandum of February 7, 2002, signed by President George W. Bush, on the treatment of Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. That memorandum records the president’s unilateral determination that the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war “does not apply to either al Qaeda or Taliban detainees.


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"The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers, which are cited to justify it."

President John F. Kennedy
Address to newspaper publishers
April 27, 1961

It makes sense JFK hated secrecy , considering he was appalled by the classified "Operation Northwoods" presented by a whackjob in the Pentagon at the time. Luckily President Kennedy nixed the whole idea since JFK did not tolerate treason either:

Let us contemplate as to how JFK would have handled PNAC, if he had discovered it before the press and the public did.


Yank, I suppose that it was the forerunners of the PNAC who were the masterminds behind the killings of Malcolm X, JFK, MLK and RFK. I'm with you all the way, OUT THE PNAC, NOW!

Thus Ike's famous warning regarding the Military-Industrial Complex to the American public in his 1961 Farewell Address.

(My Dad expressed your very thoughts two days ago about the "forerunners of PNAC" and their masterminding in the '60's)


George W Bush says "I don’t care what the international lawyers say". Have Americans actually considered the implications of such a statement by their country's President and Commander-in-Chief?

First, it must be clearly understood that international law is U.S. law. In fact, the Constitution of the United States of America makes ratified treaties the supreme law of the land along with the Constitution itself.

Article. VI. Clause 2: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which 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; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. [Emphasis added.]

Therefore, when Bush says that he cares nothing for international obligations contained in treaties and covenants undertaken by the United States (the U.N. Charter, the Nuremberg Principles, the Geneva Conventions, etc.), he is actually saying that he cares nothing for U.S constitutional law.

Such express disregard for "the supreme Law of the Land" would seem, in and of itself, to provide more than sufficient grounds for impeachment. But it doesn't stop there. Bush has also declared unilaterally that U.S. treaty obligations do not apply to actions that it may take outside its own territory. According to this administration, it's OK for the United States to ignore its international obligations provided it does so on someone else's turf.

Try putting yourself in the shoes of another country's head of state and just think about those declarations for a minute. What other nation or group of nations would ever again be foolish enough even to consider entering into any agreement with a pariah nation that the United States has become in flouting both international law and its own constitution. To do so, in the circumstances, would be sheerest folly.

The question is no longer whether there are grounds for the impeachment of George W Bush. The real question is whether the United States of America can rid itself of the vile putrid stench he has cast upon the country and ever again regain its proper place among the law abiding nations of the world.

The European Commission has said it will investigate reports that the CIA set up secret jails in Eastern Europe to detain and interrogate terrorist suspects.

Torture Debate Spotlights Importance of Global Ban

As Congress considers new legislation reinforcing the ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, a new book illuminates the practice of torture around the world and examines how recent policy shifts in the United States have undermined the global ban on torture.

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