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Aug. 1-2 Fast Against Torture commemorates eight years since torture memos
August 1 is the eight-year anniversary of the John Yoo/Jay Bybee torture memos. Coincidentally, the statute of limitations applicable to the Federal Torture Statute is also eight years. While it could be extended if death resulted, if a continuing conspiracy is found, or if a little-known provision of the Patriot Act is invoked, this anniversary is nonetheless of particular significance. Accountability for the torture committed in our names has been virtually non-existent.
The Federal Torture Statute was passed in 1994 following the ratification of the Convention Against Torture. Since then, only one person has ever been charged under that statute. His name was Chuckie Taylor, he was the son of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, and the torture he committed was as head of his father's "Anti-Terrorist Unit." The irony is striking: torture committed in the name of anti-terrorism. When will we ever learn?
No one has ever been charged under that statute for torture done on behalf of, or in the name of, the United States. Nor has anyone ever been charged for conspiracy to torture, authorizing torture, ordering torture, or "legalizing" torture. The evidence is not lacking. Judges, inspectors general, Pentagon investigators, a Bush-appointed General Counsel to the Navy, and F.B.I. interrogators have all said we tortured people in our custody. Major General Antonio Taguba called it "a systematic regime of torture." One hundred or more -- the data is no longer being released -- may have died. Apparently torture is now officially legal.
President Obama and Attorney General Holder say no one who relied on since-withdrawn OLC memos will be charged. Only those who engaged in torture-plus, who went beyond the unlawful advice of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), are even allegedly being investigated. Certainly no higher-ups will be charged. The Convention Against Torture (CAT) contains no such "unless authorized by the OLC" phrase. Instead, in its very first article, after defining torture, it says: "This article is without prejudice to...national legislation...of wider application" [emphasis added]. Nothing -- not "a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency" -- justifies torture. And no provision in the CAT allows for a narrower definition of what constitutes torture.
During the last administration, some courageous United States Attorneys resisted the wishes of the political people in the White House and elsewhere. Now? Not a one is willing to investigate, much less prosecute, anyone for torture committed in our names. The Obama-appointed U.S. Attorneys are all in lock step.
From time to time a lone voice from the 535 members of the House or Senate can be heard. Rep. Nadler (D-N.Y.), for example, did speak out recently. Over the years, maybe a handful have. In years past, members of Congress committed civil disobedience at the South African embassy. Last year Congressman Ellison (D-Minn.) committed civil disobedience at the Sudanese embassy. What this country really needs are some political leaders who will commit civil disobedience at the Department of Justice.
For me, this isn't rocket science. School-age children can understand it:
All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore Socrates is mortal.
Waterboarding is torture. (Barack Obama, April 29, 2009)
Torture is a crime. (18 U.S.C. Secs. 2340-2340A)
George W. Bush admits he ordered waterboarding. (June 2, 2010)
Torture allows for no prosecutorial discretion. (Convention Against Torture)
Therefore George W. Bush -- and his co-conspirators -- should be prosecuted for torture.
Regrettably, it seems the Nuremberg Principles are for others, our government is lawless, torture has become legal, and our silence makes us complicit. Let us commemorate this eighth anniversary of those infamous memos -- and our continuing lack of political will -- as a day of national shame.
Tackling Torture at the Top (a committee of WAMM) and others will commemorate that day by Fasting Against Torture for 24 hours starting at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Aug 1. Members will also be present at the Federal Building in Minneapolis from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 2. They call for repentance and accountability for the torture that has been done in our names. Join their fast or vigil; write your senators or representatives; call the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, B. Todd Jones, (612-664-5600)]; contact President Obama and Attorney General Holder; write a letter to the editor. To heal the past and to prevent officially sanctioned torture in the future, accountability is essential.