Tuesday, November 17, 2009
"Telling the Truth about Torture:
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, now an advocate for release of U.S. interrogation records, says he didn't change sides. The truth did."
By Anthony B. Robinson
Rev. Robinson is a retired pastor from Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle, and formerly wrote a column on religion for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He interviewed Ray McGovern in Seattle during McGovern's speaking tour, organized by Washington State Religious Coalition Against Torture.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Interview KUOW 94.9 FM Radio Seattle 11/12/09 "Weekday" with Steve Scher 9-10 am
Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern on Torture
Video of Ray McGovern talk, Thurs 11/12/09, 7 pm, Kane Hall, UW Seattle
"Why Accountability for Torture Is Crucial for Human Rights, Our Security and Our Souls"
Thanks to independent videographer, Mike McCormick
Interview KIRO 97.3 FM Radio Seattle 11/13/09 Dave Ross show 10- 11 am
Interview KEXP 90.3 FM Radio Seattle Sat. 11/14/09 "Mind Over Matters" with Mike McCormick
enter date and time, 11/14/09, 7:30 am
All Mind Over Matters programming is archived on KEXPs website for two weeks following broadcast.
OpEd in Tacoma News Tribune, 11/15/09
Torture is a result of accumulated evil – but few seem to care
by Ray McGovern
STILL TO COME:
Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture,
UW Tacoma's Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Concentration,
and United for Peace of Pierce County present
Ray McGovern on Does Torture Work? 'Let's Have Both Sides of the Story'
Sunday November 15, 2009, 7:00 p.m.,
at UW-Tacoma, Carwein Auditoriumin in Keystone Building, 1900 Commerce St,
Free, public welcome. Free parking in C-St. lot next to UWT.
Monday, Nov 16 Ray McGovern: "Why Accountability for Torture is Crucial for
Human Right, Our Security and Our Souls"
The Evergreen State College(Olympia), Lecture Hall, room 2, 12 noon
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Monday November 16, 2009, noon, The Evergreen State College (TESC), Lecture Hall, room 2 (in the round building on left central campus at Evergreen), 2700 Evergreen Pkwy NW,Olympia
Free, All Are Welcome
Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years. He is active in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and has been an outspoken critic of the flawed intelligence used to justify the Iraq war and of the use of torture.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
An Amazing Anti-Torture Week in the Puget Sound Area
See posts below for these events:
- Mon Nov 9, Seattle, Nan Aron on Bringing Justice to Torturers event canceled, to be rescheduled
- Weds Nov 11, Seattle, Mark Danner on "Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War"
- Thurs Nov 12, Seattle; Ray McGovern on "Why Accountability for Torture Is Crucial for Human Rights, Our Security and Our Souls."
- Sat Nov 14, in Seattle, Jeff Robinson on his experience representing detainees in Guantanamo Bay (at ACLU dinner)
- Sun Nov 15, in Tacoma; Ray McGovern on Does Torture Work? 'Let's Have Both Sides of the Story'
- Mon Nov 16, in Olympia; Ray McGovern on "Why Accountability for Torture Is Crucial for Human Rights, Our Security and Our Souls."
Friday, October 23, 2009
UW Tacoma's Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Concentration, and United for Peace of Pierce County present
Ray McGovern on
Does Torture Work? 'Let's Have Both Sides of the Story'
Sunday November 15, 2009, 7:00 p.m., at UW-T, Carwein Auditorium, 1900 Commerce St, TacomaFree, public welcome. Free parking in C-St. lot next to UWT.
Ray McGovern is active in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and has been an outspoken critic of the flawed intelligence used to justify the Iraq war and of the use of torture.
Ray McGovern http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_McGovern won the Intelligence Commendation Medal, and prepared the president's daily intel briefing in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. A Roman Catholic, McGovern recently published a stinging commentary on a 2009 poll result according to which most regular churchgoers (54 percent) believe torture can be "justified."
Co-sponsors include ACLU-Washington; American Friends Service Committee - Pacific NW; Amnesty International Puget Sound; Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War (SNOW); Washington Association of Churches; Veterans For Peace Chapter 134 Tacoma; and Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Information http://www.wsrcat.org or http://www.ufppc.org/local-news-mainmenu-34/9071/
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Ray McGovern on "Why Accountability for Torture Is Crucial for Human Rights, Our Security and Our Souls"
Co-sponsors include ACLU-Washington; American Friends Service Committee - Pacific NW; Amnesty International Group 4, Seattle; Amnesty International Puget Sound; Backbone Campaign; Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War (SNOW); UW Amnesty International; UW Center for Global Studies; UW Center for Human Rights; UW Jackson School of International Studies; UW Latin American Studies Program; UW Law, Societies & Justice program; UW Southeast Asia Center; United Nations Association Greater Seattle Chapter; Washington Association of Churches; and Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Town Hall presents Mark Danner Reports from the World’s Hot Spots.
For the past two decades, author and award-winning journalist Mark Danner has reported from Latin America, Haiti, the Balkans, and the Middle East, exploring not only the real consequences of American engagement with the world, but also the relationship between political violence and power. From the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti to the tumultuous rise of Aristide; from the onset of the Balkan Wars to the painful fragmentation of Yugoslavia; and to the invasion of Iraq and the legacy of the Bush administration, Danner, former staff writer at The New Yorker and author of "Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War", has visited some of the world’s most troubled regions, bringing back lessons on politics, violence, and war. Danner is also the author of "Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror."
Danner was recently in the news for his New York Review piece 'US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites,' which offered the first view of American torture inside secret prisons, based on a previously secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Danner's pieces on torture in Stripping Bare the Body should be of particular interest.
Presented by Town Hall’s Center for Civic Life, with Elliott Bay Book Company. Series supported by RealNetworks Foundation, the Brown Foundation, and the Otto Haas Charitable Trust. Tickets $5 at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or 800-838-3006, or at the door beginning at 6:30 pm. Town Hall members receive priority seating.
info http://www.townhallseattle.org or http://www.markdanner.com
Friday, October 9, 2009
Monday November 9, 7:30 pm, at Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Avenue at Seneca Street, downstairs, enter on Seneca Street, Seattle
Town Hall presents Nan Aron: Bringing Justice to Torturers.
Attorney General Eric Holder, writes Alliance for Justice president and founder Nan Aron, is a man on a hot seat that's getting hotter. Holder reportedly is authorizing a criminal investigation into the mistreatment of detainees by CIA interrogators, but President Obama has said he does not support a special commission. And some big names would be sure to come up in any kind of investigation: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, George Tenet, John Ashcroft, and Condoleezza Rice. But Aron thinks Holder needs to go even further: While a full-scale investigation of the use of torture by the United States government will stir up passions on both sides, she writes, "it is our only hope for reaching some national consensus on the torture issue." Aron has been a leading voice in public-interest law for more than 30 years, and helped defeat Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987.
Presented by Alliance for Justice and the Town Hall Center for Civic Life.
Tickets $5 at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or 800-838-3006, or at the door beginning at 6:30 pm.
Note: this is not a WSRCAT event but we are in total agreement with Nan Aron's opinion that Holder needs to go further! We want accountability for the decision makers who authorized torture.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Former CIA employee Ray McGovern will speak in a talk entitled "Why Accountability for Torture Is Crucial for Human Rights, Our Security and Our Souls."
Sponsored by Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture; the Law, Societies & Justice program at the UW; Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation; and UW Southeast Asia Center.
More info coming soon.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
To: Senator Patty Murray
Senator Maria Cantwell
Congressman Jay Inslee
Congressman Rick Larsen
Congressman Jim McDermott
The Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture was founded on a commitment to the equal dignity of all human beings, a principle enshrined in the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We write to protest the grave and continuing violation of human rights in Guantanamo Bay, Bagram, and other prisons run by the U.S. government.
Over two hundred persons remain imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. Many have been held for over seven years. Many have been subjected to harrowing ill-treatment, including torture. Only a small handful have ever been charged with a crime. Human rights organizations believe that many, and perhaps most, are innocent of any involvement with terrorism. Some remain imprisoned even though both the Bush and Obama administrations ceased to classify them as enemy combatants.
Now there are signs that the "Guantanamo model" is being exported elsewhere. The Obama administration is seeking to deny the right of habeas corpus review to individuals sent to Afghanistan from overseas locations. The administration is also crafting policies that would subject some individuals to indefinite detention without charge or trial and would authorize prosecution of others before military commissions lacking the procedural protections of civilian trials or military courts martial. The avowed purpose of the military commissions is to facilitate guilty convictions by revoking long-honored rights of the accused.
We deplore the attack on fundamental rights that as far back as the Magna Carta have been recognized as essential to a civilized legal order. The attack is as unnecessary as it is wrong. Our civilian court system has repeatedly shown itself capable of convicting genuine terrorists and placing them behind bars. Our government’s policies must be constrained by justice and not dictated by an unreasoning and indiscriminate fear.
We must also be mindful of the precedent we set by our actions. If the United States subjects foreign citizens to rigged trials and indefinite detention without trial, it will be unable to complain when foreign governments apply equivalent measures to U.S. citizens. But more fundamentally, our stance is based on moral principles, the principles of basic human rights due every human person.
We urge you to speak out and take action in support of the following principles:
1. Reputable human rights organizations must be granted access to prisoners in the custody of the United States, in order to monitor their conditions of confinement.
2. The United States must guarantee humane treatment to all prisoners, as required by domestic and international laws. No prisoners may be subjected to forced feeding.
3. The United States must release all prisoners not classified as enemy combatants. If the prisoners face a serious threat of persecution in their home countries, and if safe haven is not provided in third countries, they must be granted free asylum in the United States, without delay.
4. The United States must provide any prisoners accused of a criminal offense with a speedy trial affording due process protections equivalent to those of our regular civilian and military courts. No prisoner may be convicted unless he has been granted the opportunity of a full defense and his guilt is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
5. The United States must release all Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and prisoners sent to Afghanistan from other countries, who are not charged with a genuine criminal offense, or who are acquitted following trial. (See point 4 for the minimum elements of a fair trial.) If such individuals face a serious threat of persecution in their home countries, and if safe haven is not provided in third countries, they must be granted free asylum in the United States, without delay.
6. Prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and those sent to Afghanistan from other countries must enjoy the right to effective legal representation.
7. All prisoners held by the United States in Afghanistan after being sent from other countries must be granted the right to habeas corpus review in U.S. federal court.
8. Individuals captured in Afghanistan and held there as combatants have the right to challenge their imprisonment on a periodic basis before a fair and impartial tribunal.
9. Victims of human rights abuses including torture, ill-treatment, and illegal imprisonment must have the right to sue those responsible. Civil remedies must not be blocked by sweeping appeals to state secrecy.
These actions constitute elementary requirements of human rights. They are required by our constitutional values and our international legal commitments. They are necessary for ensuring that U.S. citizens will be treated fairly and humanely in the future. They do not compromise, but on the contrary enhance, our national safety.
We would like to hear from you what you think should be done to restore due process and transparency, and to protect the rights of prisoners in U.S. custody. We would welcome an opportunity to discuss how we can work together to accomplish these goals. Please let us know how we can arrange a meeting to further this discussion.
Robert Crawford, Facilitator
Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture
cc: President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr.
Robert Crawford, Facilitator, 17904 Westside Hwy, SW, Vashon, WA 98070
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr.
US Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20530-001
Dear Mr. Attorney General:
This letter is a follow-up to a letter sent to you on July 11 (attached) on behalf of the Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture, an affiliate of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. In that letter we urgently asked that you establish "a Special Counsel in order to initiate a criminal investigation into all violations of federal law since 2001 related to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners in the 'war on terror,' including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."
From news reports, we understand that you are considering a criminal investigation but that the scope of the inquiry will be limited only to those individuals who committed criminal acts by exceeding the authorizations and guidelines provided to them. According to these reports, the authorizations and guidelines themselves will be excluded from such an investigation.
We would be greatly disappointed if these reports are correct.
We believe there is more than ample evidence that national and international laws against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment have been broken, that torture has been committed as a matter of policy, and that it was committed with the knowledge, support, and indeed the authorization of the highest levels of our government.
We respectfully submit that your primary obligation is to investigate whether unlawful acts of torture were facilitated, authorized and implemented at the highest levels of the government of the United States.
The War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C., 2441, provides for jurisdiction in the courts for acts or conspiracy to commit acts of torture and cruel or inhuman treatment. The federal anti-torture statute, 18 U.S.C., 2341A, also creates jurisdiction in U.S. courts.
Moreover, both the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture
OBLIGATE such an investigation, and if evidence warrants, prosecution.
Thus, we write again to ask that you appoint a Special Counsel to investigate the FULL extent of the unlawful torture program that was established by officials of the United States government.
The health of the republic rests upon holding accountable ALL government officials who intentionally violate the law. The laws against torture are among the most important laws we have. They are essential to our identity as a democratic nation. The Founders considered the issue to be so crucial that they enshrined the prohibition in the 8th Amendment.
We expect the Justice Department to fulfill its statutory obligations to investigate violations of law. We fear that if these obligations are not met a culture of impunity among the nation's political leaders and other public servants will be the inevitable result. We believe that it is your solemn responsibility to see that the crime of torture, surely one of the most egregious crimes against humanity, is resolutely investigated and prosecuted, however far-reaching the commission of the crime.
No one is above the law.
Robert Crawford, facilitator
Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture
cc: Senator Harry Reid, Representatives Nancy Pelosi, John Conyers, Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell
Robert Crawford, Facilitator, 17904 Westside Hwy, SW, Vashon, WA 98070
Attorney General Eric Holder
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Mr. Attorney General:
The Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture, affiliated with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, urges you appoint a Special Counsel in order to initiate a criminal investigation into all violations of federal law since 2001 related to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners in the "war on terror," including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In March of 2009, excerpts of an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report were released that concluded that detainees had been subjected to torture – a crime under both domestic and international law. Evidence contained within the DOJ memos released in April, the Senate Armed Services Report, as well as several other credible sources, strongly suggests that felonies have been committed and were authorized at high levels of the previous administration. This is not a matter, as has been alleged, of criminalizing policy differences. The anti-torture laws are clear. Their enforcement is not a discretionary matter.
Both the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture obligate such an investigation, and if evidence warrants, prosecution. The War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C., 2441, provides for jurisdiction in the courts for acts or conspiracy to commit acts of torture and cruel or inhuman treatment, both identified as punishable war crimes. The federal anti-torture statute, 18 U.S.C., 2341A, also creates jurisdiction in U.S. courts.
There are compelling political reasons for the appointment of a special counsel, not least of which bear upon the good name and moral and legal standing of the United States in the world. By far the most important reason, however, is that when the government itself
flaunts the law, the rule of law is put in grave danger. The cornerstone of any viable legal order is that no one should be above the law. No office should protect individuals from the willful violation of law. No bureaucracy’s legal interpretation designed to evade the law should be allowed to have the practical standing of law, indemnifying government officials from accountability under the law.
If the Department of Justice does not act, if those responsible for violating the law are not held accountable, we fear that a culture of impunity will take hold and that nothing will prevent future leaders in times of fear or threat to act once again outside the law.
We join the National Religious Campaign (NRCAT), the Presbyterian Church USA; the American Civil Liberties Union, Representatives Jerrold Nadler and John Conyers, and others in asking you to appoint a Special Counsel.
Robert Crawford, facilitator,
Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture
cc: Senator Harry Reid, Representatives Nancy Pelosi, John Conyers, and Jerrold Nadler; and the Washington State Congressional Delegation.
Monday, June 8, 2009
by Rob Crawford
We are entering June, which is Torture Awareness Month. I have always felt uncomfortable with condensing such important matters into a time frame, as if awareness--and, hopefully, the principled actions that accompany awareness-- can be safely put aside for the rest of the year. On the other hand, we live in a world of competing atrocities and urgent concerns, as well as the joys of summer, so anything we can do to remind ourselves and those with whom we converse that the urgency of confronting U.S. torture is a good thing--and that it is a continuing challenge. The shame and remorse that we feel that these terrible deeds were committed in our name do not disappear with the winter rains--nor with a new administration.
Why is this June unlike previous June's? Because, I believe, the anti-torture movement is at a critical stage, a moment of crisis, where the significant achievements we have won with President Obama's executive order ending all abusive treatment will either be solidified and extended so that our nation will never again return to the brutal and inhumane treatment of those it captures; or, that the political, cultural and ideological settlement will be such as to keep torture as an option, an item on the menu of state actions that can be employed in the name of national security, brought out as a response to the next emergency or "impending emergency". There is the appearance of our having put the "dark side" behind us--the Bush-Cheney administration is out of power; Obama is taking a different course--and thus we can safely "move forward". There is a widespread perception that America has returned to the rule of law and has restored its "moral authority". I believe, however, that the battle for public opinion about the legitimacy of torture has never been greater. Nor am I confident, given some recent decisions, that the Obama administration will do the right thing.
The events of the spring of 2009 have amply demonstrated that the struggle for a torture-free America is far from over. In the entire time of my involvement in this sordid issue, I have seen nothing like this spring's attention to torture. Not even the Abu Ghraib photos stirred the kind of debate we are seeing now. The release of the memos created a firestorm of commentary about what was done, why it was done, and what were the likely consequences for our country. In the history of the United States, there have been few parallels where the government's policies have come under such close moral and political scrutiny.
Obama's decision to release the secret torture memos on April 16 rightly called forth demands for investigation and accountability, including, of course, from our own National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Commentators from across the political spectrum, shocked by the brutality of the methods authorized in the memos and the accounts that appeared in the leaked report of the International Committee of the Red Cross, were moved to voice their dismay. The pressure for a Commission of Inquiry and/or criminal investigations grew dramatically.
These calls for accountability were met with an onslaught of commentary from the political right and the national security apparatus, led by Dick Cheney. We heard about how "enhanced interrogation" saved the United States from another terrorist attack, how it is an essential tool in the war on terrorism, and how Obama's ending that program has put the country in jeopardy. Throughout it all, there was a continuing denial that the U.S. had engaged in or authorized torture and that what Americans saw in the Abu-Ghraib photos had nothing to do with policy. And what was policy was not about unlawful or immoral acts but just a matter of "policy differences," "hard-choices" by well-intentioned leaders doing their best under strained circumstances to protect the nation. In May, Republicans jumped on the possibility of implicating the Democrats, essentially warning that any investigation into the Bush-Cheney era would be accompanied by a partisan counter-attack, giving preemptive substance to worries that any investigation would be too partisan and too divisive for the country. Further, we were repeatedly told not only from the right but from mainstream commentators that it would somehow be better for the country if we followed the president's advice to not look backward. In short, the counter-attack has been fierce and has been given voice in every single major media outlet.
Although difficult to assess, my guess is that this counter-attack by the advocates of "aggressive interrogation" was largely effective. The result? The anti-torture movement's call for accountability either through a commission of inquiry or criminal investigations appears to have been stymied--at least temporarily. The President himself has discouraged such efforts and the Congressional Democratic leadership seems to concur.
If this assessment is correct, think about the implications: with the release of the memos, there can no longer be doubt that crimes of the highest order were authorized by the president and vice president, the national security council, the Secretary of Defense and others in the chain of command, and the Director of the CIA. Certainly, many people will continue to deny that crimes have been committed but this denial increasingly strains credulity. The critical question is how we can claim that we are a nation of laws if there is no effort to hold accountable those who have broken the law? How can the grave immorality of torture become a part of our national consciousness if amnesia is the prescribed solution, especially when so much of what passes for informed public opinion still is attempting to justify these immoral and unlawful policies?
Depending on the outcome of the ongoing "debate" about torture or "enhanced interrogation," the "exception" of the Bush-Cheney torture regime may easily turn into a "torture culture"--a culture that, even though divided about torture, is still largely willing to consider torture as a legitimate tool of government if the country's national security is claimed to be at stake. From my perspective, given that the danger of another terrorist attack may be with us for a long time, this attitude translates, practically, into support for torture among broad sectors of the public. Polls continue to suggest this to be the case.
Such an outcome is unacceptable. If the moral core of our country is to survive (we are saying that it cannot survive if we opt for state torture under any circumstances), the struggle has become one for the hearts and minds of the American people. Let's not deceive ourselves; we can lose. We have much to do in educating our communities about the facts of what has happened and to converse about the moral and political implications of these sorry events.
Thus, this June and the months following deserve our continuing commitment to the anti-torture struggle. Contact WSRCAT for suggestions about what you can do.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
The Washington State Religious Campaign against Torture strongly endorses an "impartial, non-partisan and independent Commission of Inquiry," as advocated by the National Religious Campaign against Torture and several other anti-torture organizations. American citizens need to know the full story of the grave transgressions of law and morality that have taken place under the past administration, how earlier practices may have set precedents, and how continuing practices may endanger President Obama’s commitment to end torture. We need to know the truth about how the U.S. government came to adopt torture (called by anything but its true name) as its official policy. We must resist the temptation to sweep the past under the rug in the name of "looking forward" or attending to "more urgent tasks."
Arguably, for the vitality of our democratic republic, for the task of restoring our battered reputation in the world, for restoring our own moral vision, and for understanding what safeguards are required to prevent a recurrence, there is no more urgent task. Looking forward with clarity requires that we look backward. Collectively, we need to "have a comprehensive understanding of what happened–who was tortured, why they were tortured, and who ordered the torture" (NRCAT web site). The American public should know the magnitude of harm done to the victims of U.S. torture and the victims should be able to know all the facts as well. Achieving these objectives will require obtaining information held back from the American public to this day. We need to know how these policies were kept secret and then, when they became public, how they were justified. Without such knowledge and the hopefully careful discussion that would follow upon its release, we will not be able to arm ourselves against further violations of our core humanity and national and international law. In the words of the NRCAT statement, a commission of inquiry is crucial if we are to "confront U.S.-sponsored torture and completely renounce ... its use." Amnesia will not/can not serve the purposes of moral renewal, vigilance, and political commitment necessary to end torture and restore the rule of law.
A Commission of Inquiry, however, is not enough. Believing that already-existing evidence strongly suggests that crimes have been committed, WSRCAT calls for a criminal investigation; and, if the evidence derived from this investigation warrants, we call for prosecution of those who have broken the law. Such an investigation should aim all the way up the chain of command. No one is above the law; and those who order unlawful acts should be held accountable. As Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights has stated, "Unless government officials know that consequences follow from such abuses, they will break the law again." What kind of law and what kind of democracy would we have if by our inaction we endorsed a double standard? Assessing ethical responsibility is a complex matter that requires discernment and an unflinching eye willing to gaze into the mirror. Responsibility under the law is more clear-cut.
Without the rule of law, liberal democracy becomes a sham and human rights a mere chimera. Without accountability, the rule of law cannot endure. Executive lawbreaking has not been confined to the Bush administration. Nonetheless, motivated by a radical doctrine of presidential powers in wartime, the Bush administration swept aside the "American legal tradition . . . with its long-established precedents for dealing with adversaries in wartime–even those accused of heinous crimes" (Scott Horton, July, 2007). Moreover, if the United States wants to be counted among the nations as a defender and promoter of human rights, it is obliged to fulfill its treaty obligations. The United Nations Convention Against Torture, which the United States has signed, requires that if evidence indicates that crimes under the treaty have been committed, signatory nations must prosecute. Last summer, General Antonio Taguba said that "there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account." In the year 2009, knowing what we already know about the torture of the last seven years, how can we not do what the law requires? We are not certain whether prosecutions are in order, but that is the purpose of a criminal investigation. The Commission of Inquiry may also reveal information that would lead to prosecution.
Is it possible to support both a Commission of Inquiry and a criminal investigation? The question has arisen because of the problem of immunity. In his proposal for a "truth commission, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has made clear his intention of exchanging immunity for testimony. If this occurs, prosecutions will become extremely difficult. How, then, can we support both the Commission of Inquiry and a criminal investigation? Following the lead of NYU’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ), which has taken this position, WSRCAT proposes that support the Commission of Inquiry with the proviso that selective immunity be provided rather than blanket immunity. Limited or targeted immunity for testimony provided to the commission keeps one eye on future criminal investigations.
Although our faith traditions call for reconciliation, they equally urge that we stand up for justice. Protecting our fellow human beings from the degradation of torture is what brought us to this work. Our commitment to protection requires both that we seek the truth and that we advocate for the enforcement of just law. Our religious voice should be clear; and we cannot afford to weaken our voice in the name of political expediency. It is possible to respond thoughtfully to legitimate concerns about aggravating partisanship, the appearance of seeking revenge, and diverting the country from more urgent matters. We are convinced that each of these reasons for not seeking criminal investigation and possible prosecution is misplaced. Accountability is not the same as revenge. Upholding the rule of law is beyond party. And as a country, we are capable of attending to more than one urgent matter at a time. Moreover, we must reject the absurd notion that holding lawbreakers accountable will prevent U.S. intelligence agents from doing their job of protecting the country. Such arguments are often opportunistic, designed to suppress the growing call for investigations.
If America is once again to become a nation of laws, we must do everything in our capacity to uphold the law. To do otherwise is to set a dangerous precedent for future government officials who can confidently assume that they can get away with violating their sacred duty to uphold the laws of the land. We will not participate in fostering a "culture of impunity." In the words of Margaret Satterthwaite of the CHRGJ, "If the United State wants to have a successful transition from an era of impunity to respect for the rule of law, it needs to embrace both truth and justice."
Saturday, January 3, 2009