June 03, 2007

Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice June 26

To the Editor:

Another June as Torture Awareness Month has arrived, while the Bush-Cheney administration finalizes secret new rules for "enhanced interrogation techniques." As conservative Andrew Sullivan blogs for the Atlantic (May 29), the Nazis coined the phrase (Verschärfte Vernehmung) in 1937. One objective was to avoid leaving marks that could be cited as evidence in court.

Unlike Bush and Rumsfeld, the Nazis initially drew the line at hypothermia and waterboarding, but about 1943 the French Gestapo experimented with what was euphemistically termed the "cold bath" technique on Resistance captives, later exporting it to Norway and Czechoslovakia. In Norway in 1948 three Nazis were found guilty of war crimes for "enhanced interrogation," despite a defense that is "almost verbatim that of the Bush administration."

Sullivan continues, "Freezing prisoners to near-death, repeated beatings, long forced-standing, waterboarding, cold showers in air-conditioned rooms, stress positions [Arrest mit Verschaerfung], withholding of medicine and leaving wounded or sick prisoners alone in cells for days on end—all these have occurred at US detention camps under the command of President George W. Bush. Over a hundred documented deaths have occurred in these interrogation sessions. The Pentagon itself has conceded homicide by torture in multiple cases."

No one is equating Bush with Hitler, but the United States fought World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War without descending to torture. In the words of Philip Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 Commission, "The cool, carefully considered, methodical, prolonged, and repeated subjection of captives to physical torment, and the accompanying psychological terror, is immoral." And as the New York Times (May 29) reports, "Experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable."

It's past time for Congress to rein in—since the Democrats haven't yet found the courage to impeach—a team that our own intelligence experts acknowledge has on balance only fueled terrorism.

Amnesty International, the ACLU, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and others will hold a DC rally and lobbying Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice on June 26—details at www.AmnestyBucksMont.org. If you can't join us for the trip, sign the petition and call on Congress to support the restoration of habeas corpus, the repair of the Military Commissions Act, and an end to torture.