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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Has the government engaging in torture become as accepted as government official lying when the truth is inconvenient?
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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Has the government engaging in torture become as accepted as government official lying when the truth is inconvenient?

an articulate voice of reason, all too rare in today's public discourse...

morris davis...

In the fall of 2005, when I was chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I sat down for a lengthy discussion with a veteran member of the prosecution team, a Marine Corps officer with an extensive background in criminal prosecution. We discussed a case that caused him concern, one he said he was not comfortable prosecuting. After describing some of the specifics of the detainee’s treatment at Guantanamo, which was documented in official records, the prosecutor said: “Sir, they fucked with him and they fucked with him until now he’s as crazy as a shit-house rat.” In an interview with Bob Woodward published in the Washington Post in January 2009, Susan Crawford, the Bush administration official who supervised the military commissions, explained why she refused to send the same case to trial when it reached her desk in the spring of 2008. “We tortured Qahtani,” she said, “His treatment met the legal definition of torture.”

The alleged torture of Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, Syed Saleem Shahzad, and Mohammed al Qahtani by government agents that signed the Convention Against Torture begs the question, is a law that is ignored worth the paper it is written on?

Some people dismiss the Geneva Conventions as “quaint,” and some believe “law” and “war” have no place in the same sentence; but few who make the military a profession hold such mistaken beliefs. Service members understand that war is hell and the law of war constrains the hellishness. It is a code of conduct developed by warriors over centuries on battlefields around the world.

The law of war is drilled into every U.S. service member from the start of basic training. It is reinforced regularly and tested during combat exercises in the belief that engrained values survive the fog and friction of war. Honor matters to service members. The failure to abide by the law of war dishonors the military profession and discredits military professionals. Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock pled guilty in March and accepted responsibility for his role in murdering innocent Afghan civilians, telling the court, “I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on how I lost my moral compass.”

Nothing is further from the profession of arms than the cowardice of terrorism. The mass murder of innocent civilians, sending children into crowded markets on suicide missions, and hiding explosives in the trunks of cars to kill and maim indiscriminately—calling those who use such tactics “combatants” gives them more status than they deserve.


Those who bias the torture debate by pandering to fear and casting it as “you’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists” are as disingenuous as those who try to justify terrorism by perverting Islam. It is not a choice of one or the other. There is nothing inconsistent in holding torturers and terrorists accountable for acts that break the law.


Who decides which obligations are truly obligatory and which means go too far to ever justify the ends? Chemical weapons may have been a fast and convenient way to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda in the rugged Tora Bora region in late 2001 and may have killed Bin Laden a decade earlier, but is effectiveness, or that it might work, or that others do it justification to violate the Chemical Weapons Convention prohibitions and commit a war crime? If the standard is the United States decides ad hoc which commitments it will honor and which it will not then it should be honest and repudiate those it considers non-binding and the sense to stop the hypocritical criticism of others that fail to live up to its “do as we say, not as we do” example. On the other hand, if the United States means what it says about the rule of law, it has to demonstrate that it practices what it purports to preach.


Do decent human beings have the temerity to stand up and insist the law be enforced? Does the United States have the integrity to lead by example, or has the government engaging in torture become as accepted as government official lying when the truth is inconvenient? We need to find our moral compass.

finding something that you've consciously thrown away is a bigger challenge than finding something you've unintentionally lost...

thanks to marcy...

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