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Tag: torture

fire with fire?

fire with fire?

Trump on waterboarding: ‘We have to fight fire with fire’

When you fight fire with fire, that’s what you get: more fire. When you fight fire with fire, you are no different than your enemy. When you counter something immoral with something immoral, you are immoral. This is not a partisan issue. This is a moral issue. Torture is NEVER the right thing to do. Torture is a betrayal of everything we claim as a nation to stand for: justice, certain inalienable human rights, and the rule of law.

If you agree, add your name to the petition: Torture is not an American value.

Torture harms not only those who are tortured; it also damages the souls of those who torture and of those who turn aside and allow people to be tortured.

In 2015, a new law authored by Senators John McCain & Dianne Feinstein and passed by Congress permanently banned the “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding and sexual humiliation, that were part of the CIA’s torture program.

We call upon President Trump and his Administration to follow U.S. law and common decency by respecting the dignity and worth of each human being and rejecting torture in every way.

zero dark thirty misleads about torture

zero dark thirty misleads about torture

From the National Religous Campaign Against Torture:

Zero Dark Thirty is a work of fiction that depicts graphic acts of torture. The movie’s implication that the use of torture produced critical intelligence is false. In particular, the clues that were essential to the hunt for Osama bin Laden were obtained through humane methods. Torture, in fact, produced false leads that wasted valuable time and staffing.

Read the rest of the article: Zero Dark Thirty: The Facts and the Fiction

turning the page on torture

turning the page on torture

It is sad that it has taken a change in administration to begin to turn the page on torture. A categorical ban on torture is an American value, not a debatable value of one party or another. Perhaps we were in so deep that there was no way out … other than repentance. And repentance doesn’t come easily to politicians.

But it is heartening to watch now as we do turn the page. I applaud the order passed down to all CIA interrogators directing them to comply with the guidelines of the Army Field Manual. And the decision to release the memos authorizing and defending the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” is necessary and healthy if we want to clear the air and move on as a nation. Confession is the first step in repentance!

And it is confession because we must “own” together what we have done to “protect” ourselves, so we may be able to “disown” it now and move on. That’s what I see the Obama administration doing: not releasing the memos to bring shame down on the heads of Bush administration officials, but to bring shame down on all our collective heads for allowing and condoning torture. They are acting against not political rivals or even a rival ideology, but against torture itself.

That is why I can understand the decision not to prosecute officials of the previous administration. It’s not about exacting punishment or discrediting rivals, but about reversing course. It’s not about the swing of the conservative/liberal pendulum. We need to be free of the kind of thinking that allowed us to tolerate or excuse torture. And we need to embrace that commitment (once more) together.

Let’s move on, disown torture, and commit ourselves as a nation once more to an unwavering defense of basic and inalienable human rights … for all people!

A week ago, the bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee released their report on the Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody. Doug Muder has a very good summary and analysis of the report on his blog, The Weekly Sift. He reviews the findings of the report which refute “layer by layer” the common arguments used to defend the practices of the past eight years:

It’s not torture …

Even if it is torture, it’s not policy …

Even if it is a policy of torture, it’s legal …

Even if it’s illegal, it’s necessary …

Even if it’s illegal and unnecessary, it only hurts people who deserve it …

Even if it’s illegal, unnecessary, and hurts innocent people, it doesn’t hurt ordinary Americans …

Even if it’s illegal, unnecessary, hurts innocent people, and makes us all less safe, no one should be held accountable …

The article is worth reading in its entirety … if only to be sure we are well-enough informed that we will recognize the truth of what we have done as a nation and be ready to turn the page!

ask the next president to ban torture

ask the next president to ban torture

Three organizations (The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Evangelicals for Human Rights, and The Center for Victims of Torture) are spearheading a joint effort to urge the next president to issue an executive order banning the use of torture by any entity representing the United States. Such an act, in and of itself, could go a long way, I think, toward restoring the integrity of the United States as a global leader in defense of universal human rights, whichever candidate were to be elected. You may join this effort by endorsing the Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order On Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty. The text of the Declaration follows …

Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order On Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty

Though we come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life, we agree that the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American.

In our effort to secure ourselves, we have resorted to tactics which do not work, which endanger US personnel abroad, which discourage political, military, and intelligence cooperation from our allies, and which ultimately do not enhance our security.

Our President must lead us by our core principles. We must be better than our enemies, and our treatment of prisoners captured in the battle against terrorism must reflect our character and values as Americans.

Therefore, we believe the President of the United States should issue an Executive Order that provides as follows:

The “Golden Rule.” We will not authorize or use any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans, be they civilians or soldiers.

One national standard. We will have one national standard for all US personnel and agencies for the interrogation and treatment of prisoners. Currently, the best expression of that standard is the US Army Field Manual, which will be used until any other interrogation technique has been approved based on the Golden Rule principle.

The rule of law. We will acknowledge all prisoners to our courts or the International Red Cross. We will in no circumstance hold persons in secret prisons or engage in disappearances. In all cases, prisoners will have the opportunity to prove their innocence in ways that fully conform to American principles of fairness.

Duty to protect. We acknowledge our historical commitment to end the use of torture and cruelty in the world. The US will not transfer any person to countries that use torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Checks and balances. Congress and the courts play an invaluable role in protecting the values and institutions of our nation and must have and will have access to the information they need to be fully informed about our detention and interrogation policies.

Clarity and accountability. All US personnel—whether soldiers or intelligence staff—deserve the certainty that they are implementing policy that complies fully with the law. Henceforth all US officials who authorize, implement, or fail in their duty to prevent the use of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners will be held accountable, regardless of rank or position.

jimmy carter speaks out on torture

jimmy carter speaks out on torture

President Jimmy Carter urges an unambiguous prohibition against the practice of torture.

Until recent years the United States has been in the forefront of condemning torture and indefinite detention without trial as fundamental violations of human rights. The Geneva Conventions are held as the unquestioned standard for the treatment of prisoners of war. I would not have believed that in my lifetime I would feel the need to call for an unambiguous prohibition against the practice of torture by agents of the U.S. government.

A burgeoning global human rights movement was, slowly but surely, taking root by the end of the twentieth century, as more and more nations sought to turn principles of human decency into the practice of greater justice for all. Tragically, the tolerance of torture by our own government is today threatening to undermine the cause of human rights and the work of those who defend these principles in the face of growing dangers.

Our nation, which overcame slavery and segregation to proudly raise the banner of human rights for all to see, now finds itself condemned amid the indelible images of human degradation, perpetrated by U.S. forces in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Our government’s persistent unwillingness to ban the use of torture by its own agents or to grant access to legal counsel or prospect of a proper trial to hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay emboldens those who oppose human rights elsewhere.

Many courageous human rights defenders who document and report human rights violations throughout the world say that these actions by the United States rob them of the tool that has been central to their success: the ability to name and shame human rights violations. Abusive governments now believe that the rules have changed, and they too easily make excuses that sound a lot like the U.S. government’s arguments to legitimize its own conduct.

As we commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United States must acknowledge that the world has become a battlefield where the rules of human rights no longer apply. We must urgently consider what this will mean for our own country and for our moral leadership in this world.

torture is not a partisan issue

torture is not a partisan issue

Torture is not a partisan issue. It is an issue of conscience. It’s not about citing extreme circumstances, but about applying a universal standard of human ethics. It’s not about finding ways to win the war on terrorism, but about not losing our souls in the process.

Torture is not a partisan issue. Consider the comments of Lindsey Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina, during the confirmation hearing for Michael Mukasey:

If we allow our executive in certain rare circumstances to use techniques like waterboarding, then what do we say when a downed airman is in the hands of another enemy in another war, and they argue, “Well, I had to do this, because I needed to know when the next air attack was going to occur.”

The NPR story containing this quote from Sen. Graham also supplies some background on “waterboarding.”

Waterboarding is a process of controlled drowning used in the Spanish Inquisition … For more than a century, it has been considered a war crime by the United States and prosecuted as such. The top legal officers of all the military services have testified that waterboarding is illegal under U.S. and international law.

If we have called it torture for more than a century and if our legal experts in the military still call it torture, then isn’t is torture? And if we say we don’t torture, why can’t we say that we categorically reject waterboarding as aid to interrogation? Because we don’t want to let detainees know what is or is not in our interrogation arsenal? Because we want them and the rest of the world to think we might indeed use torture?

Torture is not a partisan issue. It is an issue of conscience … of personal conscience and of national conscience.

mary pipher takes a stand

mary pipher takes a stand

Dr. Mary Pipher, a prominent psychologist and author, recently returned a Presidential Citation award she had received from the American Psychological Association, in protest over the Association’s endorsement of its members’ participation in CIA interrogations.

Her gesture makes a symbolic and largely personal statement against the increasing tolerance by this nation’s leaders of “enhanced interrogation techniques” — i.e. torture — but it is nevertheless a courageous and honorable act, an act which gains her nothing, but reflects a deep integrity and an unwillingness to look the other way or to wait for somebody else to speak up.

Here is the text of her letter to the APA:

August 21, 2007

American Psychological Association,
750 First Street, NE,
Washington, DC 20002-4242

President Brehm:

I am writing to inform you that I am returning my Presidential Citation dated 2/02/06 and awarded to me by then President of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Gerald Koocher. I have struggled for many months with this decision, and I make it with pain and sorrow. I was honored to receive this award and proud to be a member of APA. Over the years I have spoken at national conventions many times and had enjoyed an excellent relationship with the APA and its staff. With this letter, I feel as if I am ostracizing a good friend.

I do not want an award from an organization that sanctions its members’ participation in the enhanced interrogations at CIA Black Sites and at Guantanamo. The presence of psychologists has both educated the interrogation teams in more skillful methods of breaking people down and legitimized the process of torture in defiance of the Geneva Conventions.

The behavior of psychologists on these enhanced interrogation teams violates our own Code of Ethics (2002) in which we pledge to respect the dignity and worth of all people, with special responsibility towards the most vulnerable. I consider prisoners in secret CIA-run facilities with no right of habeas corpus or access to attorneys, family or media to be highly vulnerable. I also believe that when any of us are degraded, all of human life is degraded. This letter is as much about us as it is about prisoners.

In our Ethics Code we agree to promote honesty and accuracy. Our involvement in these projects has been secretive and dishonest. Finally, as psychologists we vow to do no harm. Without question, we violate this oath when we allow people in our care to be deprived of sleep or subjected to sensory over-stimulation or deprivation.

I cannot accept the August 19, 2007 Reaffirmation of APA’s Position Against Torture (Substitute Motion Three). Under this motion, psychologists will be allowed to continue working on interrogation teams that are not subject to the Geneva Conventions. This motion places our organization on the side of the CIA and Department of Defense and at odds with the United Nations, The Red Cross, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association. With this reaffirmation we have made a terrible mistake.

I know that the return of my Presidential Citation from Dr. Koocher will be of small import, but it is what I can do to disassociate myself from what I consider to be a heinous policy. All of my life I have tried my best to stand up for those with no voices and no power. The prisoners our government labels as enemy combatants are in this category.

I return my citation as a matter of conscience and in the hopes that the APA will reconsider its current unethical position. We have long been a wonderful organization that respected human rights and promoted tolerance, kindness, and peace. Nothing is more fundamental to our core orientation and professional service to others than our commitment to all people’s inherent dignity, safety and welfare. I hope my letter may be useful in restoring the APA to its long-respected and important stance as a beacon of integrity and kindness for all human beings.


Dr. Mary Pipher