the inflicting of severe pain to force information or confession, get revenge, etc.
Long known as a nation that fervently promotes human rights, the United States under President Bush officially authorizes its own agents to subject prisoners to harsh treatment that any honest definition would describe as torture.
The U.S. has been known throughout its entire history as a nation of laws, but Bush and his top officials have privately rewritten those laws and changed definitions to condone illegal – and immoral – behavior.
In December 2004, the U.S. Department of Justice publicly issued a legal opinion that declared torture an abhorrent practice. The next month, during his Senate confirmation hearings, Alberto Gonzales condemned torture as an interrogation method, saying “torture and abuse will not be tolerated by this administration.”
Just weeks later, after Gonzales was sworn in as attorney general, the Justice Department secretly issued a new opinion that approved harsh interrogation including subjecting prisoners to extreme temperatures, simulated drowning and head slapping. Shortly after swearing to the Senate Judiciary Committee he would not tolerate torture, Gonzales approved the opinion that not only tolerated it but explicitly authorized it. Apparently, that opinion remains in effect today.
Last week’s revelation, first reported by the New York Times, that the highest echelons of the Bush administration essentially encouraged agents to torture prisoners is more than another case where the Bush administration said one thing publicly while privately condoning the opposite. The opinion marks official support of actions the U.S. rightly condemns when taken by other nations, a short-sighted repudiation of basic human rights that should lead Americans to loudly remind their leaders just what this nation stands for.
In addition to allowing its own agents to torture prisoners, the Bush administration has resumed holding some prisoners in “black sites,” secret prisons in unnamed countries where torture is more prevalent.
The administration and its supporters have defended forceful interrogation as a practical means to gain information from terrorists – anything to stop “another 9/11.” But even the most experienced counterterrorism officials and experienced interrogators say torture is largely ineffective because it too often produces false information. People being tortured say what they think will end the torture, regardless of whether it’s true.
In 2005, Congress adopted legislation from Sen. John McCain banning “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment. The administration argues that head-slapping, placing prisoners in freezing temperatures and pretending to drown them aren’t cruel or degrading. Just in case, when Bush signed the law, he attached a statement saying he could disregard the law if he thought it interfered with his constitutional powers.
This official approval of torture is not only bad for the United States, it’s bad for Americans – particularly members of the armed services. The U.S. places its own captured soldiers at much greater risk of being subjected to the same measures the U.S. takes against prisoners it holds.
Of all the actions the Bush team has taken in response to 9/11, none hurts the United States more than condoning torture.