Thursday, April 16, 2009

Human Rights and Barack Obama, the Coward

One step forward, two steps back.

That's how I'd describe the news that came out today regarding the Obama administration's stance towards persistent Bush-era torture policies.

AP: No charges against CIA officials for waterboarding

I watched the documentary Torturing Democracy (viewable online) recently. It's very good; I would have preferred something a bit less sensationalist in nature, but with this subject matter, sensationalism is hard to escape. If you want to learn more, sitting down and watching Torturing Democracy would be my recommendation.

When Obama took office, one of my hopes was that we would see a rollback of the Bush administration's massive human and civil rights abuses. Indeed, much of the secrecy surrounding the US's use of torture has been ended--but to what end? Reports of prisoner abuse have not decreased, even though Guantanamo is scheduled to be closed, along with the so called "black sites" around the world. The Patriot Act is still on the books. Our intelligence agencies are still completely out of control.

And now we find out that the people responsible for this are going to get a free pass. President Obama tells us that "We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history...but at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past." Attorney General Holder tells us that "It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department."

"Nothing will be gained?" Maybe so. But by choosing this course of action, everything will be lost.

Norton v. Shelby County tells us the following:
"An unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation as inoperative as though it had never been passed."

All of these people took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Even the bits about due process and cruel and unusual punishment.

The article linked above says "using a plastic neck collar to slam detainees into walls...and beating and kicking the detainee(s)" was authorized. Torturing Democracy also reports the practice of sexual humiliation. Everone's heard about waterboarding.

Every time someone calls waterboarding "simulated drowning," I get nauseous. There is nothing about it that is "simulated." They start drowning you, and stop the flow of water before you suffocate, letting you cough up the water they just poured down your throat and take a few gasping breaths. And then they start drowning you again. Your tax dollars at work.

The kicker? The techniques used at Guantanamo are based on techniques used against our soldiers to produce false confessions. They aren't designed to get people to tell you the truth, they're designed to get people to tell you whatever you want them to tell you.

Nancy "Impeachment is off the table" Pelosi and Barack "Nothing to be gained" Obama are cowards of the highest order. They had a clear view of a great evil. They had it within their power to ensure that justice was done. They have abandoned their responsibilities for reasons of political convenience.

This is what my country has come to: neither authorizing nor carrying out the systematic torture of human beings, imprisoned indefinitely and without charge, warrants any repercussive action.

Today, I weep for my country.

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