Thursday, June 19, 2008

Just Because Torture is Something we Did, Doesn't Mean It's Something We Would Do.

Jake Tapper at ABCNews' Political Punch blog reports on the release of the new Physicians Without Borders report today, in which Retired Army General Antonio Taguba's preface proclaims the following:

"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."
If this seems to you like a strange thing for Taguba to say, it's probably because you recognize him as the author of the infamous Taguba Report, the US Army's initial investigation into the situation at Abu Ghraib once the prisoner abuse scandal broke in March of 2004. In it, he wrote (among other things):
"Numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees . . . systemic and illegal abuse."
Ahem, since systematic, cruel and illegal abuse of detainees during an armed conflict fall under the basic definition of war crimes, how exactly is his current statement news? And whose "doubt" is he talking about as being "no longer"? His own? Wouldn't that have been pretty much shattered by his original report? The Bush Administration's? Not judging by their reaction to the repeated attempts by the Supreme Court to rein them in.

Certainly not certain blog commenters over at Political Punch, who seem to harbor plenty of doubts. Check it out.

It's not clear to me how the legal or political environment has changed since 2004. Those who understand and are committed to the Geneva Conventions know that Common Article 3 always applies to all noncombatants, and covers the kinds of abuses at Abu Ghraib. These are the vast majority of the US public, for whom the pictures spoke for themselves and triggered justifiable outrage three years ago.

Those who care little for the letter or spirit of the law have bought the Bush Administration's 2004 position that if a detainee is not a prisoner of war, it's fine for the gloves to come off. (Even the White House has backed away from this, but the damage is done.)

What will remove doubt is the November elections, which will bring one of two men to public office, capable of genuine leadership, either of whose position on humanitarian law will be an improvement.

No comments:

"; urchinTracker();