Friday, July 28, 2006
Another Measure of How Far We Have Fallen
Jack's below post details the contortions involved in the Bush Administration's effort to protect U.S. officials and troops engaged in possible war crimes. A different aspect of the same article--focusing on the origin of the War Crimes Act of 1996--also bears comment:
Jones and other advocates intended the law for use against future abusers of captured U.S. troops in countries such as Bosnia, El Salvador and Somalia
The reporter's reference to El Salvador in this context is odd, not to say a sick joke. The war there concluded in 1992.
Although there was a Congressional prohibition on the U.S. having more than 500 troops ("advisors") in El Salvador at any one time, that number was routinely exceeded. There was a prohibition on them taking part in combat. That, too, was routinely violated, and, although the Reagan and Bush I administrations lied about it at the time and for long afterward, the military admitted to it in the mid-1990s after family members demanded recognition for their service.
I have heard testimony from literally dozens of people who were tortured by elements of the Salvadoran security services with U.S. personnel present.
No U.S. soldiers were ever captured by the Salvadoran opposition, much less captured and tortured. Five Marines were shot in a restaurant, and the wounded U.S. pilot of a downed helicopter was shot dead. These were crimes. But the fears of torture of U.S. soldiers in El Salvador (where the U.S. still maintains an airbase, the sign that we "won" that proxy war) is a remarkable piece of projection given the massive, routine use of torture by the government and security services that we supplied, trained, and funded completely for a decade.
We must remember also that the concerns about what US personnel have done in the period from 2002to Hamdan expressed by Gonzales is a red herring. Gonzales and others are worried about their own skins - the court martials of low level military show clearly their willingness to sacrifice the underlings.
The article bars murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, torture and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."Post a Comment
Well, I don't recall the Administration saying murder, mutilation, some undefined "cruel treatment", actual torture (rather than anything unpleasant redefined as torture for political point scoring or expediency), or even "outrages" were now allowed.
In fact, er, aren't the Abu Ghraib abusers on trial or in prison now, variously? Aren't servicemen who are accused of murder or other such acts investigated, tried, and when said investigations and trials reveal guilt, as they sometiems do, sent to prison?
Is keeping someone awake for a few days humiliating? No, though it's really unpleasant. Is it torture? I doubt it is by the lights of the Articles.
How about waterboarding? It's very unpleasant, but even it is not obviously torture under the traditional use of the term (and since it is not rigorously defined in the Articles, last I read them, that's what we're left with).
This still all reads as a-contextual point-scoring behaviour.
When the US by policy starts mutilating people, hooking them up to batteries, or putting them in tiget cages, you can talk convincingly of "how far we have fallen".
While it doesn't do such things by policy, and sends people who do them to Leavenworth, it all sounds a bit hollow.