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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La torture en voie de légalisation, selon le voeu de Bush

by Jacques Coubard

Legalislation of Torture, Just as Bush Wishes

Translated Monday 2 October 2006, by Henry Crapo

United States: Caught off guard by the Supreme Court for violation of the Geneva Conventions, president Bush has obtained from his Republican majority the possibility to interpret this international law as he pleases.

George Bush has obtained a green light from his Republican senators, a majority in the Senate, to continue torture in CIA prisons. This agreement is intended to avoid having this sensitive issue pollute the electoral campaign.

The compromise reached last Thursday (21/9) formally reaffirms Article 3 of the Geneva convention, but entrusts its interpretation to George Bush. The way is open to what the president calls "alternative methods" of interrogation, and this, without further details. Confessions previously obtained by torture continue to be taken into account by exceptional military tribunals, and the trial discussions will remain secret, in order not to provide information to the enemy. Those detained will have no right to challenge the military tribunals.

The torturers will not be brought to justice

The torturers in the CIA prisons cannot be charged with crimes. This is an essential detail of the compromise, since recently it has become clear that some CIA agents have let it be known that they refuse to interrogate prisoners, and that they have been purchasing private insurance against the possibility that they will have to face trial.

In commenting on the compromise, the Washington Post says "The abuses can continue. ... If the legislation passes in the expected form, Mr. Bush will enter the history books as the president who approved torture and is responsible for the enormous damage that it has occasioned." Torture will be legalized.

For two years now, the shock of photographs of humiliated prisoners in Abou Ghraib leaves no doubt concerning the reality of torture practiced. Torture is routine and widespread in Afghanistan, on the base at Bagram, in the camp in Guantanamo on the Amercian base in Cuba, and in the secret prisons, the "black sites" where the CIA can break the will of prisoners in countries where such practice is banal, or in those European countries that accept to hide these CIA specialists. This is not to exclude the cooperation of a "rogue state" such as Syria, where, as the Canadian government has recently revealed, one of its citizens was taken after being kidnapped, and tortured.

"Super liar", against crushing evidence, Bush persists and signs, answering each time he is questioned, "We do not torture". A jurist had supplied him with a legal basis and justification of torture, consigned to a memo made public on 7 July 2004 by the Washington Post. That jurist is today the Secretary of Justice in the Bush cabinet.

The Geneva Conventions and the CIA

The exercise of legitimacy of the CIA became more difficult last June, when the Supreme Court gave its decision on a complaint by a prisoner in Guantanamo, recognizing that the Geneva Conventions ought to be respected, that the prisoners had the right to treatment within the law then on the books. But the court added that if the president wished to establish a special legal regime for these prisoners, he should ask Congress to make clear the conditions of application, in the form of a new law.

This gave Bush the opportunity to save face, and to continue his attack. The Republican senator McCain and two of his colleagues took arms against the legalization of torture, with the support of two former secretaries of State, George Schultz and Colin Powell, who seemed to have discovered that "the world has begun to doubt the moral bases of our fight against terrorism".

McCain, in whose opinion the compromise leaves everyone a winner, has used his past history as a prisoner tortured in Vietnam as an irrefutable argument for the wisdom of his battle against the excesses of Bush. But it seems he is even more concerned about his candidacy for the next presidential election, for which he cannot risk depriving himself of the support of ultra-conservatives, who are beginning to feel that McCain’s interventions were beginning to damage the war against terrorism. This is the be-all and end-all for the strategists of the White House, when they need to anesthetize their opponents. To avoid being accused of complicity with the terrorists, of weakness, or even of communism, the Democrats have shown no great ardor to denounce violations of international law. Their prudence also reflects divisions within their party. They all voted for the war against Iraq, and they have not regretted that fault.

Worried that the strategy of fear, an habitual tactic for the White House, will influence the November elections doubtless explains both their attitude and the slight gain in pre-election polls by Gallup, which show the Republicans and Democrats neck and neck, with a public opinion that can scarcely find any differences between the two parties with respect to the issue of the Iraq war.

Bush’s repeated errors

As soon as the compromise was announced in the press, the Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the most important organization of jurists in the United States, raised its voice against a text both "inadequate and inapplicable" with regard to the Geneva Conventions.

But the most recent blow against the blackmail of "continuing the war against terrorism", which justifies an unquestioning support of the great inquisitor, was delivered on Sunday by the New York Times and Washington Post, a report by 16 intelligence agencies, observing that the intervention in Iraq "has engendered a new wave of Islamic radicalism, and has increased the risk of terrorism". (See article on the NIE report). The minority leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, finds that this text "confirms the repeated errors of president Bush in Iraq, and his obstinate refusal to change his policy, which have made America less safe." But we know nothing more about what his own party proposes. [1]

[1the italics here were here added, for emphasis, by the translator.

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