War Crimes: The Posse Gathers - Torture Degrades Us All

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War Crimes: The Posse Gathers
By Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith

Diverse forces are assembling to bring Bush administration officials to account for war crimes. Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Mother for Peace, insists: “We cannot have these people pardoned. They need to be tried on war crimes and go to jail.” Paul Craig Roberts, Hoover Institution senior fellow and assistant secretary of the treasury under Ronald Reagan, charges Bush with “lies and an illegal war of aggression, with outing CIA agents, with war crimes against Iraqi civilians, with the horrors of the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo torture centers” and calls for the president’s impeachment. Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and former president of the American Society of International Law, declares: “These policies make a mockery of our claim to stand for the rule of law. [Americans] should be marching on Washington to reject inhumane techniques carried out in our name.”

Can such disparate forces as the peace movement, conservative advocates of the rule of law, and human rights advocates join to halt high government officials demonstrably engaged in criminal enterprise? Can they reach out and appeal to the deep but vacillating commitment of the American people to the national and international rule of law? Or will the Bush administration divide the posse and retain for itself the mantle of defender of international law and the U.S. Constitution?

Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith, with Jill Cutler, are the co-editors of In the Name of Democracy: American War Crimes in Iraq and Beyond (New York: Metropolitan/Holt, 2005) http://www.americanempireproject.com and co-founders of War Crimes Watch. They are frequent contributors to Foreign Policy In Focus ( http://www.fpif.org ).

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Torture Degrades Us All
By Ben Saul

In recent times, it has become fashionable to regurgitate old arguments in favor of torture, without fully thinking through the human implications of making such statements. Not only lawyers for the U.S. government, but academics from Harvard Law School and Deakin Law School in my own country of Australia have argued for torture.

Torture is as old as law itself; it was used in ancient Rome as in medieval Europe, French Algeria, and Northern Ireland, and now still in over 100 countries. It is not surprising that arguments for torture have reappeared in a time of crisis (or perceived crisis) for western countries, when some people instinctively reach for more legal powers, seemingly blind to the history of past emergencies where torture was deemed unnecessary.

For those who think we live in an age of terror, it is intuitively appealing to believe that torturing one person to save many is the right thing to do. Discussion of torture should not be taboo, but arguments for it must withstand moral scrutiny. The legal meaning of “torture” was drafted by human hands; it is therefore fallible and cannot merely be accepted as divine truth – particularly if the definition of torture is too weak.

Terrorism does not demand that we torture to defend ourselves. To the contrary, the threat of terrorism reminds us of the importance of protecting human dignity, even of terrorists. Law necessarily draws moral lines in the sand which cannot be crossed; the inevitability of torturing the innocent is a price too high to pay to save the lives of others.

Arguments against torture are not based on alarmism, moral absolutism, or rhetoric. The consequences of forcibly violating the body and the mind are profound and signal an unnecessary return to the blunt techniques of medieval justice. Torture irreparably damages human dignity, devalues human life, and corrupts the institutions of our democracy.

Ben Saul ( http://www.law.unsw.edu.au/staff/SaulB/ ) is a lecturer in the Faculty of Law ( http://www.law.unsw.edu.au/ ) at the University of New South Wales, the director of the Bills of Rights Project
http://www.gtcentre.unsw.edu.au/projects_partners/projects/bor/index.asp at the Gilbert & Tobin Centre of Public Law, and a regular contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus ( http://www.fpif.org ).

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Iraq Strategy: Still AWOL, Still Costly
By Col. Daniel Smith, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Some of Bush’s November 30 speech at Annapolis seemed as old as Vietnam. Johnson, appearing before a friendly audience, tried to explain the nature of the Vietnam War, why the United States was there, and the war’s objectives, ending with a vision of Vietnam’s economic development within a larger world order. Johnson said he regretted the “waste of war,” noting however that often it had to precede “the works of peace.” By that April 7, 1965, just 400 U.S. troops had died in Vietnam.

Bush, under growing criticism across the political spectrum, also chose a friendly audience at the Naval Academy for his latest attempt to define and defend what the White House terms its “stay the course” strategy in Iraq. Unfortunately, maintaining the status quo is not and never has been a strategy. Moreover, as is evident from what Bush doesn’t say, he seems to be disconnected from the real world of real war and real politics in Iraq today – and hence somehow not responsible.

Accusing the terrorists of making Iraq the “central front in their war against humanity,” he calls Iraq “the central front in the war on terror.” Nowhere does he acknowledge that before March 20, 2003, no al-Qaida or other non-Iraqis were fighting in Iraq.

Dan Smith is a military affairs analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus (online at http://www.fpif.org ), a retired U.S. Army colonel, and a senior fellow on military affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

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From ufpj-news


The Posse Gathers: Bush War Crimes:

The task is now upon us all to better understand the criminality of our government's aggression and, as citizens, to act accordingly to demand that our government adheres to international law."



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