Inadequate Dialog on What Torture Looks LikeWednesday, June 25th, 2008
Today’s Boston Globe editorial focuses on Broken Laws, Broken Lives and on the restoration by the courts of habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo prisoners.
Physicians for Human Rights arranged for extensive two-day medical examinations of former detainees, none of whom was ever charged with any crimes. The detainees said they had been subject to prolonged isolation, stress positions, temperature extremes, sexual and religious humiliation, menacing dogs, and death threats. As Leonard Rubinstein, the organization’s president, said last week, these “authorized techniques” led to unauthorized beatings, electric shocks, and sexual assaults, which prove, he said, “that once torture starts, it can’t be contained.”
The report does not name those who mistreated the detainees. Identifying them, and holding them accountable, is the responsibility of the US government. In a preface to the report, General Antonio Taguba, who led the Army’s investigation of Abu Ghraib, writes, “The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.” Repairing the harm this abuse has done to the nation’s name should begin with airing the issue in the campaign and lead to the punishment of those responsible.
The Globe protests that, despite the growing evidence of torture on and other war crimes by the US and the recent court rulings affirming rights that have been long denied, the torture issue has had little discussion in the US presidential campaigns.
Although the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has blackened the image of US power around the world, the issue has garnered only passing attention so far in the presidential race….
The decision by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit followed a Supreme Court ruling June 12, which restored the habeas corpus rights the Bush administration and Congress had taken from Guantanamo prisoners. The two court decisions and the human rights report are a withering rebuke of President Bush’s policies.
Until recently, Senator John McCain, the author of an amendment to ban torture in interrogating detainees, could point to a sharp difference with Bush on this issue. But in 2006 he voted to strip prisoners of habeas corpus rights, which allow them to challenge their imprisonment in court. Earlier this year, McCain voted to sustain Bush’s veto of a bill banning the CIA from using abusive interrogation methods. Senator Barack Obama opposed the 2006 law and favored the limits on CIA interrogations.
The Globe concludes:
Repairing the harm this abuse has done to the nation’s name should begin with airing the issue in the campaign and lead to the punishment of those responsible.