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The United States of Torture

11/17/2005 10:33 AM
sleepy The United States of Torture
Russian newspaper Pravda recently called the US the "United States of Torture."  
Here's the article and their reasoning:  
Also, recently Senator John McCain called for congress to pass a law outlawing torture by the US because he says it is a necessary step to improve the US image abroad which has gone into a serious death spiral ever since GW Bush became president.  
Has Bush turned the US into the "United States of Torture?"
11/17/2005 11:22 AM
Dave Rich
Especially ironic in two ways; first, the incidence of torture in Iraq has been reduced drastically since the invasion, and second, our accuser is, longtime champ of human rights, Russia!
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11/17/2005 11:24 AM
Mark Hammer
I listen to a compendium of English-language broadcasts on CBC radio from public broadcasters around the world when I happen to be awake between 1 and 5:30 AM. The sources are from around Europe, Africa, and southeast Asia. Also in there is a half hour from Radio Moscow. As much as I'd love to give them credit, it never ceases to amaze me how much the media in Russia engages in neglect of their own social and economic issues by dissing everyone else, particularly their former Cold War foes. And this is coming from someone who could easily be described as a commie sympathizer on occasion! I take what Pravda says with about as much salt as before the fall of the Berlin Wall and "Gorby".  
I have no idea if the methods employed by the "intelligence" community in the last 4 years have gotten more severe, but at least torture during the 1970's was a dirty little secret, and not trumped up and publicly justified as a valid part of a war against something. In other words, it never had the level of overt administrative acceptance it appears to currently have. The scramble that authorities seem to be in the midst of to gain any fleeting shred of information seems to have resulted in the application of torture to a population it wouldn't have been applied to in previous years. Or so it would seem.  
I am certain that even John McCain can imagine a circumstance in which applied discomfort would be used to avoid a large-scale tragedy. His concern that the perceived ease with which the US appears to apply the right to torture has completely undermined their capacity to be trusted, and have their honest efforts accepted at face value, is quite justified, in my view.  
The US is certainly NOT "the United States of Torture", but I say that as someone living near the US, watching US TV each day, working alongside Americans, and staying in touch with daily life in the US. For those who live on other continents, and have considerably less knowledge or contact, the reputation of the US can very easily rest on image issues like torture. The bottom line is that the very best that America can do in the way of foreign policy and aid will amount to naught unless the image is improved. A visible rejection of torture by congress is an excellent first step. Resolution of the various remaining cases as Guantanamo Bay would also help, as would desisting from shipping people off to other countries whose use of physical methods is common and difficult to stop.  
The world had, and generally continues to have, a great deal of sympathy in the wake of 09/11. It would be a damn shame to squander that good will by the sorts of things this administration currently does so as to avoid another 09/11.
11/17/2005 12:03 PM
Outlawing torture as suggested by McCain would be an interesting step because such a law would have some very nasty sharp teeth.  
Under such a law, our leaders (presidents included) could face civil lawsuits asking for billions of dollars in settlements to be extracted from them by those claiming to be tortured.  
What I'm saying is very real. Bill Clinton found out quickly that he was not immune to civil lawsuits for some of the things he pulled. Torture lawsuits would soon follow.  
I am sure business will go on as usual. Government leaders will be very reluctant to pass any law that stands to ensnare them in their nasty doings, especially when their own wealth could be at stake.
11/17/2005 2:28 PM
Mark Hammer
The potential litigation consequences of a LOT of things have stymied White House support for them: the World Court, banning land mines, etc.  
It is the cumulative effect of all those self-serving hesitations that have continued to erode the reputation of a nation that keeps wondering "Hey, we're busting our balls here trying to help all you guys; why do you hate us so much?". The answer, as John "Bless him" McCain suggests, is that if you want to be listened to and want respect, you have to hold yourself to a visibly higher standard in a visible manner. I.E., if you don't walk the walk, no one will listen when you talk the talk.  
Of course, the great irony is that John McCain will face huge opposition from many, and he'll be the only guy in the room to have ever witnessed torture....his own.
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