Bush Legacy: China Defends Its Use of Torture By Citing The Bush Torture Program

The Bush Administration has long been ridiculed by the international community as converting the United States from a leader in human rights to the very symbol of the violation of core principles of human rights. However, few were prepared for the utter hypocrisy of watching the Administration condemn China for its use of torture on the very same time that President Bush vetoed a ban on the use of torture in the waterboarding bill. Now China is using our torture program to defend its own abuses.

Chinese spokesman Qin Gang has accused the United States of “exercising double standards on human rights issues” in its condemnation of his country. There is little question that we are applying a double standard when both the President and Congress has struggled to preserve a well-defined form of torture. This hypocrisy will become more acute when our soldiers are waterboarded by other countries who will quote the President and various members of Congress in saying that it is perfectly appropriate.

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49 thoughts on “Bush Legacy: China Defends Its Use of Torture By Citing The Bush Torture Program”

  1. American Elephant,

    Thank you for your thoughtful post.

    The American legal tradition has long recognized that there are constitutional restraints on the type of treatment that agents of the state give persons in their custody. This includes the contexts of interrogation and incarceration.

    There was concern as far back as the ratifying conventions of the Constitution where delegates expressed concern that our Constitution would protect us from the type of inquisitorial tactics used in the old world. They did not at those times define torture in terms of pain and injury, though that was certainly implicit. They extended the concept of ill-treatment out past pain and injury, when they settled on the phrase “cruel and unusual”.

    Later, courts here interpreting the Constitution, uniformly and consistently struck down abusive ill-treatment whenever cases arose that claimed it.

    The last great wave of cases hitting the high court were in the forties and fifties when abuses in the jails of this country became such that a slew of “police” cases presenting federal issues reached the Supreme Court and Frankfurter issued that famous dictum about accusatorial versus inquisitorial systems of justice when it comes to interrogation.

    There was a parallel stream going on in cases arising out of our armed conflicts. Again, the courts ruled that torture and ill-treatment were punishable when committed by our enemies.

    After the war, we signed on to international agreements outlawing abusive treatment and for the next fifty years America was a powerful voice internationally for humane standards of treatment worldwide. We talked the talk and walked the walk.

    The movement for humane treatment of persons by states is you see quite venerable and long pre-dates the Bush Administration. Your conception that this is a manifestation of anti-Bush sentiment is inaccurate though I grant that a lot of people are anti-Bush out there, I don’t think they are anti-torture because of that animus.

    As to whether waterboarding is torture. Yes indeed. It produces excruciating suffering and fear of death. And as you may know, putting persons in our custody under imminent fear of death is an illegal practice.

    I think you also imply that pro- and anti-waterboarding is a liberal/conservative, republican/democrat divide. Not so!
    Please read the Washington Monthly’s recent issue on torture. You will see many names familiar to the conservative cause there writing against it.

  2. “Waterboarding causes no physical harm, causes no pain. It scares people.”

    –American Elephant

    “Dr. Allen Keller, the director of the Bellevue/N.Y.U. Program for Survivors of Torture, [stated] that he had treated a number of people who had been subjected to such forms of near-asphyxiation, and he argued that it was indeed torture. Some victims were still traumatized years later, he said.”

    –Mayer, Jane. “Outsourcing Torture”, The New Yorker, 2005-02-14. Retrieved on 2007-12-18.

    ” “I have described the waterboarding I was submitted to. And no one can say, having passed through it, that this was not torture, especially when he has endured other types of torture—burning, electricity and beating, and so on.”

    —French Journalist Henri Alleg Describing His Torture of Being Waterboarded by French Forces During Algerian War

    I wonder just who really is the ideologue blinded by hate.

  3. “The Bill addresses the use of “aggressive interrogation” techniques that are harsher than “pretty please wont you tell us” but do not cause any injury or physical harm — elements essential to meet the definition of torture.”

    –American Elephant

    The phrase “Verschärfte Vernehmung” is German for “enhanced interrogation”. Other translations include “intensified interrogation” or “sharpened interrogation”. It’s a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court.

    —Andrew Sullivan commenting on notorious Gestapo Chief of Security Mueller’s memo authorizing the exact enhanced interrogation techniques advocated by American Elephant.

    For the far right wing, things really don’t change very much. That’s why civilized people must always be on guard for their double-speak.

    You can read the memo translation here: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/05/verschfte_verne.html

  4. The bill was not a ban on the use of torture. Torture is already illegal. Absolutely no one in the administration has ever, or is advocating the use of torture.

    The Bill addresses the use of “aggressive interrogation” techniques that are harsher than “pretty please wont you tell us” but do not cause any injury or physical harm — elements essential to meet the definition of torture.

    One would think that a “legal scholar” would know the difference.

    Waterboarding causes no physical harm, causes no pain. It scares people. It has been used on Kalied Sheik Mohammad and he sang like a bird, divulging information that was used to foil active terrorist plots.

    It’s disturbing to me that the same liberals that would insist police use “non-lethal” force (such as tazers, pepper spray, tear gas, etc) rather than bullets to subdue a man wielding a knife in public to prevent him from harming one person are the same liberals who insist it is TORTURE! to pour water over a mans face in a manner that causes no pain and no injury whatsoever. And that such methods must not be used even to prevent the death of thousands.

    It is moral retardation. Its argued by people who are putting their hatred of President Bush ahead of reason, the good of the country, and the lives of innocents, and it is repugnant.

  5. It is with mixed emotions that I report I was able to watch the video ‘just once.” However tempting to a Three Stooges aficionado (of which I am) it is too painful a reminder of when I did precisely the same thing.

  6. “They cast their shadow dutifully and carry out their instructions in manner that only Dostoyevsky might be capable of describing. They beat their chest to the sound of drum that has no meaning to them.

    They defend the chains that bind them.

    If only they were fiction and not our neighbors.

    (Apologies – I must need more fiber)”

    Let’s not forget that shooting down the aforesaid clay pigeons not only aids in honing one’s argumentation skills, but also provides an excellent source of schadenfreude.

    Speaking of taking joy in the misery of others; bet ya can’t watch this just once:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=bPWZ7ASnhiE

    Regards,

    Bob

  7. Free Speech does have its inconveniences.

    That is to say – the pervasive ‘call / write teams’ of a singularly focused and determined extreme right wing are pervasive.

    They cast their shadow dutifully and carry out their instructions in manner that only Dostoyevsky might be capable of describing. They beat their chest to the sound of drum that has no meaning to them.

    They defend the chains that bind them.

    If only they were fiction and not our neighbors.

    (Apologies – I must need more fiber)

  8. I feel that it is very likely that more than three people were waterboarded and that Mr Bush himself may not have had access to all the reports. For complete information go to the OVP.

    There is reason to suspect such activities may have occurred at Bagram as well as Diego Garcia. Or maybe they didn’t.

    Not to mention the rendition sites. Or maybe they didn’t.

    Waterboarding itself has become a cause celebre, but is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of cruel and unusual punishments as well as assaults on human dignity as well as outright torture.

  9. >>msnbc bs ‘er: Good Lord you are out there with the lunatics. Three people have been waterboarded, and then you go and think Bush is as low as the Democrats in that he would “leak” that it was successful. Your problem is you do not understand Bush because you and Turley and others here have BDS blinding your eyes.

    Objectively speaking, understanding Bush is irrelevant to determining whether he broke the law.

    >>msnbc bs ‘er: Bush DOESN”T CARE what you think. He knows history will judge him and that judgement won’t come until he is long gone.

    By your reasoning, Charles Manson could demand release based on the theory that pending/unknown historical judgment trumps any judgment in a court of law.

    >>msnbc bs ‘er: HE DOESN”T CARE about you TWO PERCENTERS RANTING THIS IS WRONG AND THAT IS WRONG.

    Neither does Manson.

    >>msnbc bs ‘er: YOU WOULD BE THE VERY FIRST ONES TO START BITCHING THAT BUSH NEVER PROTECTED YOU IF WE WERE ATTACKED AGAIN.

    And we all know what happens to squealers in a PROTECTION RACKET; don’t we.

  10. msnbcbser:

    “Bush DOESN”T CARE what you think.”

    ************************
    That is probably the most truthful thing you have ever said.

    Of course, other men with quaint notions, and assuredly less certain of their place in the judgment book of history thought public opinion still did matter in this Country:

    “The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to.”

    –Thomas Jefferson

    “Public opinion in this country is everything.”

    –Abraham Lincoln

    I wonder if history will remember them?

  11. msnbc bs’er, I hope everyone who writes in this forum has one thing in common; we care about our nation. I do not think people must agree about every issue but I do think it matters how each of us treats each other. Ideas should be honestly engaged with integrity.

    The administration has now Admitted to waterboarding 3 people. There are many eye witness accounts of waterboarding by contractors and OGA in Iraq. There are very good arguments that waterboarding and other forms of torture have not only failed to make us safer but have put Americans in harms’ way.

    I am not worried about what Bush thinks or how history will judge him. I must make my own judgement. I try to base this judgement on information and a sincere code of ethics which I have thought long and hard about. The information I have aquired and my own ethics tell me torture is wrong.

    If you would like to tell me the information and ethical code upon which you base your decision to support torture, I would honestly read it, not with hatred and a closed heart/mind but with a genuine willingness to hear a different view point.

  12. msnbc bs’er
    I see that you believe that George Bush only waterboarded 3 people. Even though I have trouble believing that Bush would tell the truth on anything, let’s assume that you are right. That means he only broke U.S. and International law 3 times. And I guess you are too slow to remember that your golden boy was President when we were attacked on 9/11. You are also right that George did not connect the dots prior to 9/11 and I am not sure that he could connect any dots. Finally, Thank you for including me on the same list as Professor Turley. That is the best compliment that you have ever given me. I am not sure that Professor Turley would agree to be on the same list with me, but I am still honored to be with him, even if it is only in your mind. By the way, does Rush tell you everything to say or do you get some of your gems from Fox News?

  13. Rafflwaw: Good Lord you are out there with the lunatics. Three people have been waterboarded, and then you go and think Bush is as low as the Democrats in that he would “leak” that it was successful. Your problem is you do not understand Bush because you and Turley and others here have BDS blinding your eyes. Bush DOESN”T CARE what you think. He knows history will judge him and that judgement won’t come until he is long gone. HE DOESN”T CARE about you TWO PERCENTERS RANTING THIS IS WRONG AND THAT IS WRONG. YOU WOULD BE THE VERY FIRST ONES TO START BITCHING THAT BUSH NEVER PROTECTED YOU IF WE WERE ATTACKED AGAIN. YOU WOULD BE WHINING HE NEVER “CONNECTED THE DOTS”.

  14. Rafflaw and Jill,

    You know, when the Iron Curtain came down in the end of the eighties, and suddenly the United States was the sole remaining superpower, when we were dubbed by the French a “hyperpower” and the name stuck; it was then that in some quarters of our government a terrible hubris and over-confidence was born.

    We no longer felt, some of us, that we had to worry about diplomatic nuance; we could start using our power instead of holding it in reserve. There were thinkers who counseled that power itself was a “use it or lose it” commodity, that we had a golden window of opportunity in which to reshape the world, before countervailing powers could arise to check us.

    It all led to this pass. The only winners are the National Surveillance State and the terrorist recruitment drives.

    DW

  15. It is amazing that the media hasn’t picked up this story in a big way. It is the height of arrogance for the U.S. to hold the world to a higher standard against torture when Bush actually seems to be proud of his torture program. He still claims that it saved lives, but of course, we cannot know how and when we were saved. This from an administration who leaked secret information and put lives at risk to out a CIA agent for political payback. If they had really stopped further attacks from information gained from the torture victims, the Bush administration would have “leaked” that information to the press long ago.

  16. At this rate, JT, such American values, will sweep the world…

    Making the world safe for autocratic regimes with pre-emptive war policies, captive legislatures, nullified judiciaries, standingless citizenry, oh, what’s the use…?

    Planet Earth —a habeas-free torture zone.

  17. One must give him credit. He always said that he wanted to bring China around to adopt U.S. values. It appears that Bush has succeeded on that goal at least.

  18. Next thing you know China will be blaming 9/11 on America….oh wait, they already did.

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