Tales of torture

by Beacon Staff • October 19, 2005

To do so, however, would imply that there is a meaningful debate to be had on the topic when clearly there is not.

Torture is wrong-end of story.,"In order to have a meaningful debate about the merits of torture, one must understand that it is in no way a partisan issue.

To do so, however, would imply that there is a meaningful debate to be had on the topic when clearly there is not.

Torture is wrong-end of story.

The mere fact that I, along with many others, feel compelled to reiterate such an obvious moral truth is a rather chilling reflection of the current state of American foreign policy.

Don't take my word for it.

Ask those who have been victimized by immoral interrogation practices. Orlando Tizon, who now serves as the assistant director of Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International, knows all too well the horrors of prisoner abuse.

Over a four-year span as a prisoner of the Marcos regime in the Philippines, Tizon was beaten, shot at, humiliated, harassed and threatened routinely.

He was not the only one subjected to this behavior.

One of the women he was arrested with said she was raped by enemy soldiers who used instruments dipped in hot pepper.

"There is no real difference between the things we went through and what the U.S. military is using today," Tizon said in a phone interview with The Beacon. "Electrocutions, sexual assaults, psychological torture, mock executions ... it's basically the same thing."

The good news is that earlier this month, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to place new restrictions on interrogating detainees in Iraq as part of a new $440 billion military spending budget.

The bill, drafted by another survivor of torture, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)-who was abused over a five-year period during the Vietnam Conflict-is designed to ensure that the military adheres to the rules of the U.S. Army Field Manual, which "bars cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of prisoners in U.S. custody.

Now the bad news: despite the fact that the bill passed through the Senate 90-9, with 46 of those votes coming from Republicans, the Bush Administration is aggressively opposing it.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan responded to the president's opposition by saying the amendment "would limit the president's ability as commander-in-chief to effectively carry out the war on terrorism."

It does seem to be an odd time for the president to be so bold, given his plummeting approval ratings, which include-and this is not a typo-a 2 percent approval rate among blacks, according to a poll conducted by NBC and The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 12.

The photos from Abu Ghraib prison and the response by the White House have predictably angered many organizations and advocacy groups. Human Rights Watch (HRW), Stop Torture Permanently (STOP), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Physicians for Human Rights, the First Amendment Center and countless other groups have all supported the McCain Amendment.

More revealing, however, is the reaction from those who, in most instances, side with the Bush Administration. For example, former Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote a personal letter to McCain in support of the amendment. Melvin R. Laird, who served as President Nixon's secretary of defense-not exactly a bleeding-heart pacifist-stated in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine that "the alleged prison scandals reported to have occurred in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay have been a disturbing reminder of the mistreatment of our own POWs by North Vietnam."

None of this really matters to the Bush team.

They do not seem too concerned that their own party-and most of the civilized world-has stood up against the madness that is institutionalized torture.

The administration has also failed to recognize that this was already settled in 1986 when the United Nations Convention Against Torture, signed by the United States, was adopted.

Our leaders seem content to let the soldiers take the blame, while they get away without any form of punishment.

When Lynndie England, the now-infamous reservist who posed in the Abu Ghraib photos, was convicted and sentenced to jail for her role in the detainee abuse, Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was ''one more example of holding people accountable because that's who did it."

But there is something terribly wrong when a 22-year-old girl is the lone scapegoat for grossly immoral policies enabled by people with real power.

"The problem is systematic torture, and that falls on the leadership of the government, including the commander-in-chief," Tizon said. "The little guy gets put in prison, and the leaders get off scot-free. If I was in the military, I would be very upset by this."

There once was a time, not very long ago, when our country engaged in "serious debate" over whether or not it should be legal to enslave human beings or allow women to vote.

Thankfully, due to the hard work of rational, humane people, these issues are no longer controversial.

Hopefully, the work of Orlando Tizon, Sen. McCain and others will help expose the use of torture for what it is-a blemish in our nation's history, no longer worthy of debate.

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