Friday, June 11, 2004
"That ought to comfort you"
When asked by a reporter yesterday at the G-8 Summit whether the use of torture was ever justified, George W. Bush responded, "Look, I'm going to say it one more time. ... The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you." Comfort me? A more comforting answer would have been this: Torture is illegal under US and international law and in light of current allegations, there will be thorough investigations of all allegations and serious consequences for those found involved in the torture of prisoners or detainees. But instead, we have the adherence to law (US law, specifically), a law that, given the disclosure of a certain Pentagon memo, is viewed as quite flexible. And given several recent front page stories in the New York Times ("Forced Nudity of Iraqi Prisoners Is Seen as a Pervasive Pattern, Not Isolated Incidents") and the Washington Post ("Use of Dogs to Scare Prisoners Was Authorized"), we know that it was applied with a good deal of flexibility. As the documents, memos, reports, and stories add up, Josh Marshall does a very effective job of illuminating the obvious in his column in The Hill:
The simple truth is that antiseptic discussions of these interrogation techniques just don’t resonate in the way that the pictures do. But it’s all there in the open if we just choose to see it.President Bush's refusal to express a firm (or indeed, any) stance against torture, saying instead that "What I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law" seems only to prove that the use of torture, as long as it can be defended as remaining within the bounds of US law, is A-OK in Bush's book. And that doesn't comfort me at all.
Yet the debate over who is responsible for what we see in those pictures continues, even when we have plenty of evidence that the tactics they were using were either specifically authorized by policymakers at the Pentagon or widespread at U.S.-detention facilities commanded by the same folks now prosecuting those reservists in the photos.
Isn’t it about time that we just come clean with ourselves and admit that those half-dozen reservists really probably were just following orders?