Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Spreading Democracy

I've just had a jaw-dislocating "WTF?" moment. The following headline from the Torygraph came up on my RSS reader: Pentagon: Bush's authority trumps torture law.

The Pentagon approved the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terror suspects on the grounds that President George W Bush's authority during wartime trumps any international ban on torture, a declassified memo has confirmed.
The Justice Department memo, released on Wednesday and dated March 14, 2003, outlines legal justification for military interrogators to use harsh tactics against al-Qa'eda and Taliban detainees overseas so long as they did not specifically intend to torture their captives.
Most controversially, it defines torture as the intended sum [my emphasis - DW] of a variety of acts, which could include acid scalding, severe mental pain and suffering, threat of imminent death and physical pain resulting in impaired body functions, organ failure or death.

While I know that 'democracy' is used by all sides to mean 'good things' and 'what we believe' surely it has to include 'transparent laws' and 'law making and law interpretation being public - either through the parliamentary debating chambers or the judiciary and NOT through the military or the civil service in secret'. How clandestine law interpretation (and wrong interpretation at that) and violation of human rights puts 'Bush republicans' at the 'pro-Western' end of the Egg of Truth is a mystery to me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is only one step beyond the Gonzalez memo, which defined 'torture' so narrowly as to exclude anything that didn't produce both excruciating pain and fear of imminent death: Yoo's refinement is to say that even if it's what we call torture, it's not torture unless it was meant to be torture. File under 'watertight but insane'.

Interestingly, it's strictly irrelevant to the UN convention on torture (which the US hasn't signed up to), as the convention specifically outlaws both torture and cruel and inhumane treatment.

Having said all of that, your main point is absolutely right - the fact that this interpretation was kept secret makes a nonsense of the rule of law, let alone democracy.

4/02/2008 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

It's a short post, but one of the best at Aaro Watch.

The devil is in the detail; it's sometimes in the fine print that Decency looks shaky.

4/03/2008 04:23:00 AM  

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