Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bush Paves The Road To Legalised Torture

The Associated Press is reporting today that some Republican lawmakers are pushing forward a White House endorsed bill that would not only legalize certain interrogation techniques defined by many as torture, but would retroactively protect anyone who has engaged in said techniques since 2001. Strongly supported by President Bush, Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist is expected to open debate on the bill within the next week. According to reports, the techniques would be used on "high value" terror suspects, though “high value” remains undefined.

55% of respondents in a recent Time poll indicated that they support the use of harsh interrogation techniques. But what does harsh torture really mean?

Let's take a look. Practises that this bill would be sanctioned either by omission or legal definition include;

• Hypothermia – a state where the body's core temperature is less than or equal to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The normal human body temperature is 98.6 degrees. Hypothermia is essentially is the rapid loss of body heat. Symptoms include; shivering, cold, pale, or blue-gray skin, lack of interest or concern (apathy), poor judgment, mild unsteadiness in balance or walking, slurred speech, and numb hands and fingers and difficulty performing tasks. WebMD defines hypothermia as "an emergency condition and can quickly lead to unconsciousness and death if heat loss continues."

• Stress Positions – a technique where a prisoner is put in a stance that is designed to focus discomfort on a specific area of the body. While usually not lethal, it should be noted that this practise has been denounced by organisations such as Amnesty International as constituting torture.

• Waterboarding - the practise of restraining a prisoner and either dunking him/her or pouring water over him/her to simulate the experience of drowning. It is a technique with origins that can be traced back to the Inquisition. Complications from this form of interrogation can include; damage to the lungs, brain damage, broken bones and death.
In a 2005 report, ABC News was told by current and former CIA officers that, they were trained to handcuff the prisoner and cover his face with cellophane to enhance the distress. Interestingly enough, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a torture victim during the Vietnam War, has described the water board technique as a "very exquisite torture" and one that should be outlawed.

This Is What President Bush Is Asking Congress To Legalize. Would You Be Proud To Say That Your Country Endorses And Engages In These Practises?

There is little empirical evidence to suggest that torture works and even if it did, is it ethically or morally acceptable? Sadly, in the mindset of our current President, it appears as though end justifies the means. In case you’re unconvinced, let me break it down some more.

• According to Elisa Massimino, the Washington director for Human Rights First, if passed, we would be the first nation in the history of the world to legally reduce the protections of the Geneva Conventions. That's right, not China, not Vietnam, not Iran, North Korea or even the old Soviet Union. But rather, the United States of America.

• Once we decide to lower the threshold as to what constitutes torture, it can be argued that American POWs will be subjected to the same treatment.

So Here's What I'd Like To Ask President Bush

If you woke up tomorrow and saw on the news that the Iranian or North Korean President was advocating the legalisation of these practises in his country, and that the legislative body had approved them, would it be o.k.?

My guess is not so much.

So why then do George Bush, Dick Cheney and Bill Frist (a medical doctor, no less) believe that they are acceptable in the United States? There is no sane answer that I can think of.

In my end analysis, this bill is an affront to the bedrock values of our country. Please write President Bush as well as, your Senators and Congressional Representative and tell them what they should already know:

Torture in any form is unacceptable!


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