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Only Accountability Can Repair the Damage Done

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July 1, 2009

In his inaugural address, President Obama said: “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” This echoed a statement Ben Franklin made in 1759: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” As we continue to call for accountability for torture, we must remind the President that what was true in 1759 must still hold true today: if we abandon this nation’s adherence to the rule of law, we’re abandoning our core values.

Our Accountability for Torture Blog Forum ended yesterday with a focus on detainees who were tortured to death while in U.S. custody. More bloggers picked up on the general issue of accountability.

Jeff Kaye writes at Firedoglake about the use of drugs in interrogations on prisoners in the current Army Field Manual—the same one President Obama has held as the standard for interrogation procedure:

[…]Yoo’s memos, which were written to provide supposed legal cover for the use of drugs and other forms of torture, appear to place the Army Field Manual’s restrictions on the use of drugs out of sync with Yoo/Addington’s legal justifications. Yoo would disallow the use of drugs that “cause profound mental harm,” that “penetrate to the core of an individual’s ability to perceive the world around him, substantially interfering with his cognitive abilities, or fundamentally alter his personality,” and are calculated to that end — a fairly stringent standard.

But the Army Field Manual only prohibits the use of drugs in interrogations which would cause “lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage,” a much more permissive standard than “profound mental harm,” especially when the latter is defined as something similar to “brief psychotic disorder” (per Yoo) . Thus, when Cambone and Company, getting off on their oh-so-smart word games in the redraft of the AFM, removed the prohibition against “chemically induced psychosis” from the old AFM, and replaced it with their new formulation, then according to Yoo’s own analysis, the Army Field Manual now allowed the drugging of prisoners in a manner that would amount to torture.

McJoan at Daily Kos writes:

Torture wasn’t limited to waterboarding. It was the combination of sleep deprivation, stress positions, “walling,” exposure to extreme heat and cold. It was used indiscriminately and in combinations that were not only approved but were “virtually choreographed” by the highest levels of government: Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet and John Ashcroft. And, as we’re likely to find confirmed in the CIA report to be released tomorrow–unless it is redacted into utter irrelevance–that the CIA knew it wasn’t an effective tool for gathering intelligence.

Don’t forget, the intelligence that it was employed to gather very early in the war in Afghanistan was the false intelligence to take us into Iraq.

[…]Our collective hands are stained. Sunlight, in the form of accountability is our only hope of cleansing that stain.

Digby writes:

[…]We deserve to know and the tortured dead deserve some justice. And if we want to just deal in pragmatic concerns, if anyone thinks that refusing to hold people accountable for what happened and showing the world that we can be trusted to civilized at least after the fact doesn’t make us less safe, they are out of their minds. This is how countries become pariah states.

The United States went crazy after 9/11 and tortured many, many people, at least a hundred of them to death. It happened. How do we live with that?

In “When Torture Kills: Ten Murders In US Prisons In Afghanistan,” Andy Worthington culls from his exhaustive research and reporting on detainees to highlight 10 murders, “three of which, to the best of my knowledge, have never been investigated at all.”

Christy Hardin Smith says in response to yesterday’s outline for accountability by the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer: “[T]he building of a complete and transparent public record has to be at the top of the list for me. More sunlight, please. And soon.”

Daphne Eviatar at the Washington Independent wrote about the hearing in Mohammed Jawad’s case today. We’re arguing that the evidence extracted through torture—the same evidence that a judge threw out in Jawad’s military commission case—should not be admissible in his case challenging his detention in federal court.

At Firedoglake, bmaz writes:

[…]So, what do we do about the criminal, immoral and depraved acts officials of the US government have conducted in our name? Clearly Bush and Cheney had no interest in accountability for their crimes of torture. But now President Barack Obama, who sold the electorate that he was the man to bring change and accountability, has shown himself to be more of the same. He truly desires to walk the other way and not address the wrongs committed against our nation, Constitution and fiber of existence. And, as Glenn Greenwald adroitly points out, President Obama even wants to raise the ante on indefinite detention without charges. How should we deal with that?

[…]The Founders gave us the answer to that conundrum. You follow the Rule of Law. You uphold the Constitution, what it stands for, and honor every drop of blood spilled since the Revolution to establish and defend it. You honor your oath to office. You do the right thing and have accountability on the merits. That is what you do, and it is time for a concerted effort from the grassroots to demand just that. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who would give up the essential Rule of Law for temporary security and political gain, deserve neither.

John Amato at Crooks and Liars added:“The torture issue is horrifying and the longer we get away from the Bush years, the more information the ACLU is able to gather. These documents are, in a word, vile.”

So while Torture Awareness Month is over, our call for accountability is only just beginning. Remind President Obama of his own words on Inauguration Day. Ask the Justice Department to appoint an independent prosecutor. Only then can we truly know what was done in our names, and begin the work needed to repair the damage done.

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