Friday, June 20, 2008

"There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes"

That's the conclusion of Major General (Ret) Antonio Taguba on the Bush Adminstration's policy of torture. In 2004, while still serving in the US Army, Taguba had investigated allegations of abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib prison. His report [long] concluded that what had occurred was both illegal and immoral, and called for most of those involved to be relieved of duty and prosecuted for war crimes. For conducting a thorough investigation and standing up for American values, Taguba was sidelined by the Army, then forced into early retirement. Now, in the preface to a report by Physicians for Human Rights on the medical evidence for torture by the US government, he accuses his former superiors of war crimes:

In order for these individuals to suffer the wanton cruelty to which they were subjected, a government policy was promulgated to the field whereby the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice were disregarded. The UN Convention Against Torture was indiscriminately ignored. And the healing professions, including physicians and psychologists, became complicit in the willful infliction of harm against those the Hippocratic Oath demands they protect.

After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, 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.

The report itself is more solid evidence for the pile. Torture leaves scars, both physical and psychological. There is a standard process - the Istanbul Protocol - for investigating and documenting those scars to determine whether torture has taken place. Physicians for Human Rights examined eleven former US detainees - four from Guantanamo and seven from various prisons in Iraq. They found physical evidence of intense beatings, stress positions, electrocution, and rape. An example:
In the most horrific incident Amir recalled experiencing, he was placed in a foul-smelling room and forced to lay face down in urine, while he was hit and kicked on his back and side. Amir was then sodomized with a broomstick and forced to howl like a dog while a soldier urinated on him. After a soldier stepped on his genitals, he fainted.


Physical examination revealed features consistent with his account, including tenderness of one of his testicles and rectal tearing.

All but one of those examined suffered severe psychological consequences as a result of this mistreatment, including
severe anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, including intrusive recollections of trauma suffered in detention, hyperarousal (persistent symptoms of increased arousal, e.g., difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance), avoidance and emotional numbing behavior. PHR’s clinicians determined that these symptoms were directly related to the torture and ill-treatment reported having taken place while in US custody...
Again, this is a standard methodology, used to investigate and uncover torture around the world. The US accepts that methodology when applied to torture in other countries. It can hardly turn around and reject it when applied to its own misdeeds (but just you watch...)

As for the conclusions, PHR is quite clear:

All of the abusive interrogation techniques and patterns of ill-treatment endured by these eleven men — including beatings and other forms of severe physical and sexual assault, isolation, sleep deprivation, forced nakedness, severe humiliation and degradation, and sensory deprivation, many of which were experienced over long periods of time and often in combination with other prohibited acts — constituted acts of torture as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under domestic criminal statutes and international human rights and humanitarian treaties, including the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions, that were in effect at the time the acts were committed.
And those responsible for them - "including those who authorized the use of methods amounting to torture or exercised command authority over them" - should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.