Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Debate isn't about torture, it's about War Crimes

As laid out by Scott Horton:

Torture Groundhog Day

For those of you who missed the week’s big news—of course it wasn’t Super Tuesday—it was the day before, when Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog appeared just before dawn to announce that we face another six weeks of winter. But the Bush Administration is nothing but a series of Groundhog Days, just the sort to which Bill Murray finds himself condemned in the movie of that name. And the cycle that the Bush White House serves up is torture, and particularly waterboarding, 24/7. Let’s just look at the ways it’s figured in the press in the last few days.


Is the Torture Discussion Too Narrow?
Questioning and discussion continues to focus on waterboarding. Alabama’s Jeff Sessions says he just doesn’t understand all this focus on waterboarding since it’s closely controlled and rarely used. The debate focuses on it for a simple reason: if Attorney General Mukasey and his sidekick Steve Bradbury can conclude that waterboarding—which is iconic torture—is lawful, then there is very little that they won’t be able to approve. In effect, the practice of waterboarding is being used to bash through the prohibition against torture altogether. But in another sense, Sessions is right. Other torture practices are far more widespread and therefore arguably still more important. I’d focus on four techniques which are plainly torture and are being used by the CIA today:

• Hypothermia

• Long-time standing

• Sleep deprivation in excess of 2 days

• Psychotropic drugs

In addition to these techniques, there are the almost ubiquitous Kubark techniques, which used a combination of sensory deprivation followed by sensory overload and which can effectively turn their subject into a vegetable. The application of the first four certainly constitute criminal acts under U.S. law. The Kubark process probably does as well. And on these points, a debate has hardly even been engaged.

Brace yourself. Groundhog day is likely to last until next winter.

(Hat'tip to Home of the Brave whose updated post I ganked this link from)

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