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Heroes & Laws On Torture

By The Reverend Published: May 17, 2009

Republican war hero and last year's GOP presidential nominee...

"All I can say is that it was used in the Spanish Inquisition, it was used in Pol Pot's genocide in Cambodia, and there are reports that it is being used against Buddhist monks today," McCain told the New York Times
"Of presidential candidates like Mr. Giuliani, who say that they are unsure whether waterboarding is torture, Mr. McCain said: 'They should know what it is. It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture.'"

Are Republicans, the same Republicans who reveled in McCain's warriorhood and hero-dom during last year's RNC Convention going to now reverse course and go against the words of their celebrated warrior?

Republican ultra-hero, Ronald Reagan, in a speech to the Senate May 20, 1988, confirming his support for America's signing of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degading Treatment or Punishment.

"Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today."

For conservatives, no one rises up to the level of divinity like Ronald Reagan. Yet, under the presidency of Reagan, not only was the Convention Against Torture ratified, but Reagan's Justice Department successfully prosecuted a case of waterboarding. Was Reagan misguided?

From the body of the Convention....

Article 1
1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

Article 2

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Bush/Cheney, and those who still defend them, tell us that "everything has changed since 9-11". They tell us that al-Qaida is stateless and, therefore, it's members have no rights under the Geneva Convention. Captured Al-Qaida members, we're told, are not prisoners of war, but instead, "enemy combatants." Ronald Reagan approved of the Convention Against Torture which specifically forbade just those kinds of circumventions meant to justify torture.

Article 3

1.No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

Article 4

1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.

Article 5

1. Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to in article 4 in the following eases:

(a) When the offences are committed in any territory under its jurisdiction or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that State;

Article 7

1. The State Party in the territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.

Article 16

1. Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article 1, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. In particular, the obligations contained in articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 shall apply with the substitution for references to torture

Geneva Convention....which applies, at the very least, inside Iraq and Afghanistan....

the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, ratified in 1949, which states in Article 17:

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

Texas waterboarding prosecuted in 1983......

At the trial of the Texas sheriff, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Woodward said the prisoners who were subjected to waterboarding were not “model citizens” but they were still “victims” of torture.

“We make no bones about it. The victims of these crimes are criminals,” Woodward said, according to a copy of the trial transcript. One of the “victims” was Vernell Harkless, who was convicted of burglary in 1977.

Gregg Magee, a deputy sheriff who testified against Sheriff Parker and three of the deputies said he witnessed Harkless being handcuffed to a chair by Parker and then getting “the water treatment.”

“A towel was draped over his head,” Magee said, according to court documents. “He was pulled back in the chair and water was poured over the towel.”

Harkless said he thought he was “going to be strangled to death,” adding: “I couldn't breathe.”

One of the defendants, Deputy Floyd Allen Baker, said during the trial that he thought torture to be an immoral act but he was unaware that it was illegal. His attorneys cited the “Nuremberg defense,” that Baker was acting on orders from his superiors when he subjected prisoners to waterboarding.

Was waterboarding a crime in 1983?

Federal prosecutors secured a 10-year sentence against the sheriff and four years in prison for the deputies.

Finally....why Bush's torture-is-legal memo writers are also guilty of crimes...

But that 1983 case – which would seem to be directly on point for a legal analysis on waterboarding two decades later – was never mentioned in the four Bush administration opinions released last week.

Case law proving waterboarding is a crime considered to be torture.
Republican heroes standing against torture. Unambiguous conventions and treaties spelling out in great detail what Bush ordered was, indeed, torture, and therefore, criminal.

All that's needed now is a backbone.

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