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House of Representatives Refuses Punishment for Torture

As we hear one war criminal after another exculpate himself by insisting that the Bush administration didn’t torture (they enhanced-interrogated instead) the criminality of torture seems a principle that only the liberals appreciate. Today, one of our representatives is seeking to re-establish that quaint value of human rights that the right wing wants to dismiss without any other ‘value system’ than its own.

Rep. Reyes introduced an amendment that sought to return our country to a system of values that once we took pride in. That measure would re-establish torture as a crime.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), the chairman of the House intelligence committee, introduced an amendment to the 2010 intelligence authorization bill imposing a 15-year criminal sentence on any “officer or employee of the intelligence community” who tortures a detainee. (Twenty years if the torture involves an “act of medical malfeasance”; life if the detainee dies.)

Specifically, the proposed Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Interrogations Prohibition Act proscribes “forcing the individual to be naked, perform sexual acts or pose in a sexual manner” — a la Abu Ghraib — “beatings, electrical shock, burns, or inflicting physical pain; waterboarding; using military working dogs; inducing hypothermia” — it happened at Guantanamo to Mohammed al-Qatani — sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, denial of medical care, “using force or the threat of force”; “mock executions;” religious desecration in an intelligence context; “sensory deprivation”; “prolonged isolation”; “placing hoods or sacks over the heads of the individual;” “exploiting the phobias of the individual” and more. Basically, it clarifies that the entire parade of outside-the-Army-Field-Manual-on-Interrogation horrors during the Bush administration are criminal acts. We’ll see if this ever actually makes it to President Obama’s desk.

The CIA declined to comment on pending legislation.

Interestingly, this was discussed hotly on the floor this morning (Feb. 26), with Rep Hoeskstra insisting that its enactment would seriously hamper the CIA – and is an insult to their mystique, implying that the CIA is actively engaged in defending torture. That is not true. It hampers their role in foreign countries, instead. Hoekstra’s defense of torture reminds me the classic Southern diversionary tactic that defended the ‘society’ from attacks on racism on the grounds that the society was practicing morally correct standards learned at mammy’s knee. Immorality is not ever a morally correct practice, and the society needs correcting, not the criticism. The amendment was stripped out of the bill.

As it debated legislation to reauthorize U.S. intelligence programs, the House Friday morning at the last minute stripped language from a wide-ranging amendment that would have prohibited U.S. intelligence operatives from engaging in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Sadly, the harm done to our country’s adherence to the rule of law is hardly redeemable, and that we tortured detainees will be a stain on our reputation forever. Last week’s findings by a holdover from the previous administration at DOJ that those who enabled torture are not criminals, should be overturned. War criminals should be punished. This beginning on the path is worth taking, and the congress should not be allowed to ignore that we as a nation are guilty unless we prosecute war criminals.

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.