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America Should Not Use Torture, Our World Image Needs Repair

April 16, 2009

I know all too well that it is easy for the other side to snipe at guys like me who argue against the use of torture on those who are captured in the ‘war on terror’.  I have heard the endless arguments about ‘what if a bomb was in the city and…..” until I am sure that there are no more cities that can be used as examples by those who think torture is a legitimate use on those who are against us.  But for me  there is a bottom line when saying that torture is not the route my nation should be using on enemy combatants.  For me it is about the shame and dishonor that torture brings with it, and the  way the world community looks at us as a result.

We are better than those in the world who do employ such tactics.  I am still one of those who actually does think my country, even though we have made some grievous errors, is still a truly remarkable place, and a sign of hope to many others around the globe.  To lower our standards and employ the most degrading and dehumanizing methods to illicit information, which very well may be faulty and unusable, is a vile exercise. 

The latest release of a memo from the Bush White days, is a dramatic way to hold ourselves accountable.  I applaud President Obama for releasing this memo, though the contents makes me ill.  The details in this memo is not the way I want the Middle Eastern nations to see us.  I do not want my tax dollars going to this activity.  I want my country to again be the good guys in the white hats.  I do not think we are beyond the point of repairing our torn image.  The first place is to admit our wrongs. This memo being released is a start.

The next thing is to make a turn in the road, and not return to the place that has soiled our image.  President Obama needs to be single-minded in his desire to see these methods of torture ended.

Interrogation tactics such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and slapping did not violate laws against torture when there was no intent to cause severe pain, according to a Bush-era memo on the tactics released Thursday.

To violate the statute, an individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering,” said an August 2002 memo from then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee to John Rizzo, who was acting general counsel for the CIA.

“Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture. … We have further found that if a defendant acts with the good faith belief that his actions will not cause such suffering, he has not acted with specific intent,” Bybee wrote.

Other memos allowed the use of such tactics as keeping a detainee naked and in some cases in a diaper, and putting detainees on a liquid diet.

The Bybee opinion was sought on 10 interrogation tactics in the case of suspected al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah.

On waterboarding, in which a person gets the sensation of drowning, the memo said, “although the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result” to violate the law.

The memo also authorized keeping Zubaydah in a dark, confined space small enough to restrict the individual’s movement for no more than two hours at a time. In addition, putting a harmless insect into the box with Zubaydah, who “appears to have a fear of insects,” and telling him it is a stinging insect would be allowed, as long as Zubaydah was informed the insect’s sting would not be fatal or cause severe pain.

If, however, you were to place the insect in the box without informing him that you are doing so … you should not affirmatively lead him to believe that any insect is present which has a sting that could produce severe pain or suffering or even cause his death,” the memo said.

Authorities also were allowed to slap a detainee’s face “to induce shock, surprise or humiliation” and strike his abdomen with the back of the hand in order to disabuse a detainee’s notion that he will not be touched, the memos said.

Bybee noted in the memo that the CIA agreed all tactics should be used under expert supervision. Other memos said waterboarding can be used only if the CIA has “credible intelligence that a terrorist attack is imminent” and if a detainee is believed to have information that could prevent, disrupt or delay an attack, and other methods fail to elicit the information.

Another memo to Rizzo, from Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven G. Bradbury on May 10, 2005, noted that nudity could be used as an interrogation technique.

“Detainees subject to sleep deprivation who are also subject to nudity as a separate interrogation technique will at times be nude and wearing a diaper,” it said, noting that the diaper is “for sanitary and health purposes of the detainee; it is not used for the purpose of humiliating the detainee and it is not considered to be an interrogation technique.”

“The detainee’s skin condition is monitored, and diapers are changed.

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