Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Party of torture

Since September 11, 2001, the Republican party has become an eager advocate of torture. They have howled that "the gloves [should] come off", they have excused the abuses of Abu Ghraib as a "college hazing ritual", they have demanded that suspected terrorists be waterboarded, and they have vilified those who have objected to these crimes as traitors and "girly-men" (because, obviously, being able to torture is the ultimate test of virility). And now, they seem to regard it as a qualification for office. Lt Colonel Allen West is running for Congress in Florida. Lt Colonel Allen West is also a torturer:

In August 2003, Colonel Allen West – commanding a US unit in Baghdad – heard a rumour that one of the Iraqi policeman he was working with was a secret insurgent. He ordered his officers to go and seize Yehiya Hamoodi, a thin, bespectacled 31-year-old, from his home. They dragged him into a Humvee, beat him, and then handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded him. In a dank interrogation room, they told him he had better start talking.

Perplexed and terrified, Yehiya explained he didn't know what they were talking about: why was he here? So West was called in. He told Yehiya he was going to be killed. While his men beat him again, he explained he had one last chance to save his life – by talking.

Yehiya protested: I am innocent! What are you talking about? So West took him outside, had him pinned down, and began to shoot. First he fired into the air. Then he ordered his men to ram Yehiya's head into a barrel used for cleaning weapons – and fired right next to his head. Then he began to count down from five. Finally Yehiya began to scream out names – any name he could think of, just to make it stop.

The men he named were seized and roughed up in turn. No evidence was found of any plot, and after another 45 days of terror, Yehiya was released.

Mock-execution is clearly recognised as torture under the Convention Against Torture, and West should be serving a long jail sentence for what he did. Instead, in yet another example of the US military's lax attitude to torture, he was fined $5,000 and allowed to retire with full benefits.

The idea that any major political party would choose such a man as a candidate for political office is abhorrent. A man like this should not be in Congress; he should be in jail.