Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Guest blogger: Why no prosecution for torture?

By John Dudley, a member of the Miami Beach Democratic Club

‘Words’ do have consequences. The former vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, has been campaigning on Fox News almost daily claiming that American torture has saved American lives. To call him a liar would be too easy. Apparently Cheney’s torture couldn’t save the lives of the 4,294 American soldiers that have died in combat or the 31,249 American soldiers that have been wounded. So when he says that ‘torture’ has saved American lives, which is untrue, no one has asked which American lives is he referring to.

In a nice twist of words, he also states that America hasn’t had a domestic terrorist attack on our homeland. Do Americans owe this new found safety to Dick Cheney’s torture? In over 200 years, America has only been attacked on its homeland twice; once by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and second by Al Qaeda in 2001 while Cheney and the Republican Party were in office.

So for seven years thereafter, Cheney is claiming that ‘torture’ has kept Americans safe. As infuriating as these false claims are, Cheney recently added that former President George W. Bush approved it. What consequences do these words have?

Let’s start with ‘torture’. The 27 BC Romans used torture for interrogation. Yes, torture is over 2000 years old. More recently (nearly 200 years ago), torture was abolished by Frederick the Great in Prussia in 1740. Italy followed suit in 1786, followed by France in 1789 and Russia in 1801. America 2003? In 2009, under President Barack Obama and US Attorney General Eric Holder, torture has been abolished in the United States.

For goodness sake, torture has been illegal in the United States, at least, since 1882. Torture, according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, is: "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions.

Signatories of the Third Geneva Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention officially agree not to torture prisoners in armed conflicts. Torture is also prohibited by the United Nations Convention Against Torture. The four Geneva Conventions provide protection for people who fall into enemy hands.

The Geneva Conventions consist of four treaties formulated in Geneva, Switzerland, that set the standards for international law for humanitarian concerns. Common Article 3 has been called a "Convention in miniature." It is the only article of the Geneva Conventions that applies in non-international conflicts.

It describes minimal protections which must be adhered to by all individuals within a signatory's territory during an armed conflict not of an international character (regardless of citizenship or lack thereof): Noncombatants, combatants who have laid down their arms, and combatants who are hors de combat (out of the fight) due to wounds, detention, or any other cause shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, including prohibition of outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment. The passing of sentences must also be pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. Article 3's protections exist even though no one is classified as a prisoner of war.

Nearly all 200 countries of the world are "signatory" nations, in that they have ratified these conventions. Clara Barton was instrumental in campaigning for the ratification of the First Geneva Convention by the United States; the U.S. signed in 1882. On August 22, 1864 several European states congregated in Geneva and signed the First Geneva Convention.

The United States Code is the codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States. Crimes and Criminal Procedure, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C, Section 2340A states (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.

So why isn’t Dick Cheney being prosecuted for breaking the law and committing war crimes? US Attorney General Eric Holder is correct, “we (the United States) are a nation of cowards”. The top attorney is now guilty of his own words. He and the Democrats are the cowards. The Democratic Party as a whole is suffering from cowardice, which is the lack of courage to face danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc. Cowardice is the complete opposite of bravery.

The extremely unpopular Republican party motivates their members with ‘fear’. Unfortunately, it is the Democratic Party that is suffering from fear. Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid; apprehension, consternation, dismay, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation.

If the US Attorney General won’t prosecute and the Democratic Party won’t prosecute, who has the courage to prosecute former Vice-President Dick Cheney?

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