Democracy Has Prevailed.

April 26, 2009

Jack Kelly Sunday

It was inevitable. In this week's column, Jack Kelly spins torture.

He starts, in all places, with the posthumous decapitation of Oliver Cromwell and the "bill of attainder" that led to it. Then he points out:
For obvious reasons, the American colonists were not fond of this aspect of the British legal system. Article 1, section 9, clause 3 of the Constitution declares: "No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed."
Do you know what else it says in Article 1, section 9 of the US Constitution? This is the sentence immediately above the one Jack patriotically parrots:
The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
Funny how Jack Kelly never got around to writing a column defending Habeas Corpus when George W. Bush named Yaser Esam Hamdi an enemy combatant and effectively suspended his Habeas Corpus rights.

But I digress.

Back to Jack the flack and hack:
U.S. law forbids "torture," which is defined as "an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain and suffering."
First let me say kudos to Jack Kelly for recognizing that US Law forbids torture. Though it is somewhat unsettling to see that word in the quotation marks. Is there an issue to be resolved before he removes the ironical puncuation marks? His next paragraph explains things:
But what constitutes "severe physical or mental pain and suffering?" Most of us recognize as torture actions which maim or kill, such as the breaking of bones, pulling of fingernails, electrodes to the genitals, etc. But some on the left want to define as "torture" anything that makes a terror suspect temporarily uncomfortable, such as sleep deprivation, having to listen to heavy metal rock, exposure to cold or simulated drowning.
I like this part:
But some on the left want to define as "torture" anything that makes a terror suspect temporarily uncomfortable...
Who? Jack conveniently doesn't say. It could be someone famous or it could be someone babbling at Jack on the bus. He doesn't do us the courtesy of filling us in on who "some" are. He does, though, list some things he considers "temprarily uncomfortable" and obviously not "torture":
...sleep deprivation, having to listen to heavy metal rock, exposure to cold or simulated drowning.
Let's start with this from the BBC:
Sleep deprivation is not like torture - it is a form of torture, a tactic favoured by the KGB and the Japanese in PoW camps in World War Two.
So both the KGB and the Japanese in WWII? Huh.

There's more - to that list we can add Saddam Hussein.

Take a look: In this CRS report from 2004, we learn that The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that U.S. POWs during the First Gulf War were tortured in Iraq:
The torture inflicted included severe beatings, mock executions, threatened castration, and threatened dismemberment. The POWs were systematically starved, denied sleep, and exposed to freezing cold. [emphasis added.]
This is how we protect democracy, Jack? By emulating the KGB, Imperial Japan and Saddam Hussein's Iraq? What great company to be in.

And Jack's spinning a bit more by including the part about listening to "heavy metal rock." It's used in conjunction with sleep deprivation. From the BBC:
The US's Psychological Operations Company (Psy Ops) said the aim was to break a prisoner's resistance through sleep deprivation and playing music that was culturally offensive to them.
So it's not just popping in a Metallica CD. It's using Metallica to keep the detainees awake. And since we already know that sleep deprivation is torture, most anything can be utilized during that process:
Heavy metal music and popular American children's songs are being used by US interrogators to break the will of their captives in Iraq.

Uncooperative prisoners are being exposed for prolonged periods to tracks by rock group Metallica and music from children's TV programmes Sesame Street and Barney in the hope of making them talk.
Now that's just sad - Barney and Elmo being a part of torture. Sheesh, is NOTHING sacred?

What's left is the waterboarding. Here's John McCain from a campaign stop in 2007:
[F]ollowing World War II war crime trials were convened. The Japanese were tried and convicted and hung for war crimes committed against American POWs. Among those charges for which they were convicted was waterboarding.
From Politifact, McCain continues:
"If the United States is in another conflict ... and we have allowed that kind of torture to be inflicted upon people we hold captive, then there is nothing to prevent that enemy from also torturing American prisoners."

McCain is referencing the Tokyo Trials, officially known as the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. After World War II, an international coalition convened to prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then as "water cure," "water torture" and "waterboarding," according to the charging documents. It simulates drowning.

R. John Pritchard, a historian and lawyer who is a top scholar on the trials, said the Japanese felt the ends justified the means. "The rapid and effective collection of intelligence then, as now, was seen as vital to a successful struggle, and in addition, those who were engaged in torture often felt that whatever pain and anguish was suffered by the victims of torture was nothing less than the just deserts of the victims or people close to them," he said.

Can't be any plainer than that, Jack. Waterboarding (or "simulated drowning" as you euphemistically call it) is torture. The US executed Japanese war criminals for waterboarding and yet Jack wants us to think that it's just meant to be nothing more than something that's "temporarily uncomfortable."

Jack's next part is simply incredible:
The "enhanced interrogation techniques" used on a handful of al-Qaida bigwigs were derived from what U.S. pilots and special forces personnel undergo in SERE training (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape). Few in their right minds would describe the SERE course -- through which thousands have passed without ill effect -- as "torture." But in this country, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Many on the left, however, wish to criminalize policy differences.
The SERE training, once you actually look at it, was set up to aid servicemen and women in the event that they're tortured by waterboarding. Inherent in the idea is that waterboarding is torture. To use the training used to resist the torture as evidence that waterboarding isn't torture is truly tortured logic.

John Adams said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

Let's be clear. Torture is immoral. Advocating it is immoral. Covering it up is immoral. Giving it a pass is immoral.

These are not "policy differences." It's also illegal (as Jack rightly points out) and so these are criminal acts.

Prosecute the war crimes.


Sherry Pasquarello said...

they can't defend torture so they just try to redefine it. just as they redefined everything else.

they almost redefined us into an image of the old soviet union or a banana republic while bush was in office.

i think kelly has gone too far this time.

Dave said...

But some on the left want to define as "torture" anything that makes a terror suspect temporarily uncomfortable...Good thing the Bushites didn't go as far as The Spanish Inquisition and resort to soft cushions or comfy chairs.

Sherry Pasquarello said...

no one expects the spanish inquisition! ; )

i love python!

Clyde Wynant said...

After the Comfy Chair comes the really heinous stuff; reading a years worth of Jack Kelly columns!