Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


James Abourezk: After Torture, What’s Next?

After Torture, What’s Next?


By James Abourezk

So, waterboarding is now OK. So is the suspension of one of our basic rights of freedom—the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Habeas Corpus, according to the U.S. Constitution, can only be suspended in cases of invasion or rebellion. Our Supreme Court has held, “habeas corpus is the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action.”

Abe Lincoln suspended the Writ during the Civil War, and even then it was a questionable act. And even more hopeless is that part of the law that permits President George W. Bush to interpret Common Article Three of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Although Mr. Bush claims that the article is vague, no one before him has had any trouble understanding that torture is wrong, and in violation of international law.

But the suspension of the Writ in 2006 is not only unconstitutional because there is neither a rebellion nor have we been invaded. It is flat out wrong.

The only rebellion we were faced with was the one begun by three Republican Senators—McCain, Graham and Warner. All three had served in the military, but McCain had actually spent time as a prisoner of war in North Viet Nam . Many of us cheered when he stood up to the President to say that if we permitted torture, which is what Bush and Cheney were trying to legalize, our own soldiers, sailors and airmen would be subject to the same brutalization as Mr. Bush was hoping to inflict on his “terror suspects.”

But the rebellion was quickly quelled when McCain, Graham and Warner caved in and said that the compromise they worked out with the President would both preserve our morals and get valuable information from enemy combatants.

First, people who are experts in interrogation of the enemy pretty much agree that torture doesn’t work. Those being tortured will say anything they think their interrogators want to hear, just so the torture will stop. Secondly, the information, even if true, which is rare, in virtually every case is outdated by the time the torture is finished. Certainly no enemy would continue with plans known to someone who was captured.

But even more importantly, as Former Secretary of State and famous Army general, Colin Powell, said, we lose our moral high ground if we torture prisoners. To me, that is a hundred times more powerful a statement than the repetitious rantings of George W. Bush who continually cites the mantra, “we are protecting Americans.” That phrase, of course, is born of polling that says Americans want to be protected, and delivered by the likes of Karl Rove, who, if nothing else, knows how to demagogue.

But the hottest place in political hell should be reserved for members of Congress, including the weak-kneed Democrats, who essentially went along with Mr. Bush’s “compromise.”

It did not seem to bother Senators and Representatives that the Writ of Habeas Corpus is being suspended for enemy combatants. There is now no way to learn whether or not the prisoner is indeed an enemy, or just someone who was gathered up in a sweep of foreigners in Afghanistan, because, without habeas corpus, their detention cannot be tested in a court.

Senate Democrats, who in recent years have dug in to filibuster at the slightest provocation, this time merely stood up to record their opposition, knowing full well they would lose a straight up or down vote on the Bush compromise. But instead of really trying to stop the legislation, those who opposed it were content to make a speech and vote against it so they could later brag about their principled stand.

Everyone knew that was the Bush/Rove strategy—bring it up just before the elections so you can accuse the opposition of being soft on terrorism. It worked with the Iraqi War resolution in 2002, so why not now?

My wife, who is from the Middle East, in fact from a country that tortures its prisoners, was nearly in tears when, after hearing about the legislation, told me that everyone in her home country always looked up to America as a beacon of freedom. But those who loved America as an idea would now feel completely alone.

President Bush continually says that, "they" hate us because of our freedoms. That may explain why, in this legislation and in the Patriot Act, he is, piece by piece, trying to remove our freedoms. If this is his idea of protecting Americans, we really can't stand much more protection.

The public's opposition to this draconian law is the only thing that will give Congress the backbone to preserve our freedoms.

*************

James Abourezk served as the U.S. Congressman and Senator from South Dakota from 1973-1979. His memoir, Advise & Dissent: Memoirs of South Dakota and the U.S. Senate, was published in 1989. Abourezk founded the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, and he is a signer of the Call from World Can’t Wait-Drive Out the Bush Regime which is holding protests in over 150 cities on October 5, 2006.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news