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Friday, January 07, 2005

Senate "approved torture" -- NOT! 

So I kept hearing on the talk shows last night that Reagan and the Senate endorsed torture in the 1980s -- well, NOT!
Its just another damned Republican Talking Point, ginned up to confuse the masses and confound the talk show hosts, who were caught flatfooted by these bald statements.
Here is the August 2002 memo which defined "torture" and "not-torture". Torture, according to the memo, means "that the victim must experience intense pain or suffering of the kind that is equivalent to the pain that would be assoiated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body function will likely result. . . [mental suffering] must cause long-term mental harm."
So things like sticking burning cigarettes in someone's ear, or chaining someont to a stool for hours, or incarcerating someone in a hot room, or pretending to execute someone, or threatening to send them to jail in Egypt, and so forth, fall into the category of "not-torture".
The memo also notes that, in 1984, Congress criminalized torture to fulfill US obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. At that time, torture was defined only as severe pain or suffering intentionally inflicted.
So here we are: by parsing the definition of "torture" so narrowly, and by noting that "torture" was what Congress criminalized in 1984, the Talking Point can be stated that Congress, in effect, approved all the other actions which the memo defines as "not-torture". Neat reasoning, huh? How clever! Oh, those lawyers sure can write good!
The Talking Point demonstrates exactly the same kind of contorted, convoluted, ammoral, slippery thinking that is demonstrated in the memo itself.
And there also seems to be another Talking Point that the Senate in the 80s approved Reagan's decision to torture terrorists. Well, again, this doesn't appear to be the case. There were two additional Geneva Convention Protocols adopted by an intergovernmental conference in 1977, designed to deal with terrorism and its targeting of civilians. Reagan decided in 1987 that he would not ask Senate to ratify Protocol I (Victims of International Armed Conflicts) -- Reagan said Protocol I gave too much protection to terrorist groups -- and Senate apparently decided not to ratify Protocol II (Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts) until Protocol I was revised, which it hasn't been.

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