Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Tortured Past

We review posts from time to time, so as to grasp how some things have changed, and how some things have not changed.

Yesterday's post indicates that we wish some things would not change, like accelerating pollution levels, and the catastrophes that are coming because of it.

We would rather see those pollution levels not change upward, but rather we would like to see pollution go away completely.

Some of the things that change, and some of the things that do not, show us a paralysis within civilization - a serious paralysis that renders civilization unable to cope, therefore unable to remedy, the most dangerous threats to civilization: rising pollution levels.

The following two pieces, posted on this date, in 2009, deal with the concept of torture by officials.

Torture is something that we would assume could be changed, but never-the-less has not been changed as it should have been, because of the aforementioned paralysis of government.

Here is the text of the first one ("I Disagree With Naomi Wolf"):

Just following orders is ok
I agree with Arianna Huffington's Article that the world is watching our debate about the torture years.

Arianna knows that our decision will have serious consequences as to how the world perceives it should deal with us.

Let's be clear that Dredd Blog fully disagrees with progressive Naomi Wolf's statement:
"Should we prosecute the agents who committed the torture? We should not"
(Huffpo). I also disagree with conservative Peggy Noonan.

Both Naomi and Peggy argue that we should not prosecute agents who conducted torture contrary to our clear law.

As Arianna pointed out, this is a critical juncture where world opinion, like a titanic ship, is very slowly turning back in our favour since we began to change our foreign policy.

We must not stop that very slow turning now, because it would leave the world's opinion of us dead in the water.

That would have serious negative ramifications for many years to come.

Imagine a neighbourhood of families who have lived there for generation after generation. This represents the world.

Older, well built houses with many different styles have been constructed throughout the neighbourhood over many years. In fact, some churches and mosques in the neighbourhood are in fact many hundreds of years old and are still in use.

People in this neighbourhood have few weapons, one to a household is the norm.

Then one year a new family moves into the neighbourhood, and builds a new house. This represents the US.

This new family talks about freedom, human rights, and peace, yet they own slaves. This is frowned on in general in the neighbourhood.

But the new family has a fight amongst themselves, and they eventually get rid of the slavery issue. Good, the neighbourhood concludes.

But lo and behold, in the new family's new 10 room house the new family begins to use 5 of those rooms for guns and ammunition. While they still talk of peace and freedom.

But since they also seem willing to help protect the neighbourhood with those weapons from time to time when the neighbourhood is threatened, their strange love and excess of things that go boom is for the most part overlooked.

But then some of the teens in the family break into a house down the street, shoot some of the people, bring some of them back, and lock them up in their basement. Then they torture them and they declare themselves to be the police of the neighbourhood.

Then the new family begins a quarrel amongst themselves about whether that was the right thing for the teens to do and whether or not the teens should be punished and corrected.

Of course this symbolic example above is not a perfect symbolism, however, one can easily surmise the point I am trying to make about it being important what the neighbours think.

Especially if we add the ingredient that everyone in the neighbour hood works on collective farms and trade amongst themselves for the financial well being of all.

If we become financially and otherwise ostracised it could be serious to our well being. Having all those guns will not suffice to make the neighbourhood fond of us and favourable toward us.

There are signs that the neighbourhood is having negative reactions already.

If we let the teens run wild with their guns and let them get away with torturing people in the neighbourhood, after we agreed not to, our credibility will suffer a serious set back.

Naomi Wolf's article says only high ups were prosecuted for war crimes at Nuremberg. That avoids the fact that enemy soldiers were prosecuted and put to death for water boarding at that time:
"McCain is referencing the Tokyo Trials, officially known as the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. After World War II, an international coalition convened to prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then as 'water cure,' 'water torture' and 'waterboarding,' according to the charging documents. It simulates drowning." Politifact went on to report, "A number of the Japanese soldiers convicted by American judges were hanged, while others received lengthy prison sentences or time in labor camps."
(Politifacts, Huffpo). Those who were "only following orders", or otherwise doing what they were told, and who then obediently tortured prisoners were prosecuted.

Is Naomi Wolf advocating a different justice for white collar elites than for poor and middle class violators?

Here is the text of the second one ("The Penalty For Torture Can Be Death"):

Our United States criminal statutes (not war crimes statutes in the Geneva Conventions) concerning torture say:
Section 2340. Definitions

As used in this chapter -

(1) "torture" means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

(2) "severe mental pain or suffering" means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from -
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;

(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;

(C) the threat of imminent death; or

(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality;

(3) "United States" includes all areas under the jurisdiction of the United States including any of the places described in sections 5 and 7 of this title and section 46501(2) of title 49.
(18 USC 2340). If behaviour fits that definition, then:
Section 2340A. Torture

(a) Offense. - Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

(b) Jurisdiction. - There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if -
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy. - A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.
(18 USC 2340A, emphasis added). It is clear to me why those who conspired to commit torture, as well as those who did the torture are desperately lying and trying to cover up.

Under this statute conspirators could receive up to life in prison, while anyone who physically causes physical death of a prisoner could be put to death.

What this statute shows is that our nation takes the notion of torture very, very seriously and it is clear that it was a signal to anyone who would try to change the reputation of America in the world that it could cost them their lives.

How many "too big to jail" officials have been prosecuted for war crimes like torture since these above posts were published?

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