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Should Charges Be Brought Against US Officials For Torture?

This week the New York Times editorial board published a piece calling for criminal charges against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his legal counsel, and perhaps other top officials, for the abuse and torture that occurred at American military prisons.

Citing a bipartisan report coming from the Senate, the editorial says that these officials ignored warnings from lawyers in the armed forces that they were breaking the law, subjecting soldiers to criminal liability, and employing a policy that was counterproductive to American security. The piece states:

These top officials, charged with defending the Constitution and America’s standing in the world, methodically introduced interrogation practices based on illegal tortures devised by Chinese agents during the Korean War. Until the Bush administration, their only use in the United States was to train soldiers to resist what might be done to them if they were captured by a lawless enemy.

It appears the Bush administration doesn't think it has a problem, as Dick Cheney admitted this week that he authorized waterboarding, and the White House has said it doesn't see a need for sweeping pardons.


Join The Conversation
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
"I'm one of the people that feels they should just blow Iraq off the face of the earth and be done with it." Yes, because the lives of the vast majority of innocent civilians whose lives have been made miserable by the fighting don't matter. F*ck them, right? They're not decent human beings who have as much right to exist, and exist in relative peace and safety, as we do, right? Jesus.
tiabia tiabia 8 years
Jillness I've been wanting to see that.
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 8 years
Jillness Jillness 8 years
I happened to see Goya's Ghost last night. Has anyone seen that? Natalie Portman and Javier Bardem get their shoulders ripped out of socket from a "stress position", aka, having their arms pulled up while behind their backs. Not that this is what they were doing in Iraq or Guantanamo, but I do think that it shows how people will confess to anything while under extreme physical and mental strain.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 8 years
"If it was a Saddam type or an Obama type, I'm not going to raise one little eyebrow over someone like that being tortured." Umm...
stephley stephley 8 years
No Clarabelle, it doesn't make a difference what 'type' of person is being tortured. The Japanese and Germans felt they were acting on behalf of their nations and their countrymen when they tortured American prisoners in World War II. And yes, there is evidence that some of the detainees are civilians with no information. What has Iraq ever done to you?
clarabelle98 clarabelle98 8 years
Do I like the fact that torture was used? No. But do I want to assume that given the situation and individual involved I would have known better? No. Our Military is there because they have to make the hard decisions that the rest of us don't want to think about. Who were these people being tortured? Because yes that makes a difference. If it was a Saddam type or an Obama type, I'm not going to raise one little eyebrow over someone like that being tortured. If it's a civilian or someone that has no information and knows nothing, then yes I'd have a problem with it. But in this case no I do NOT believe that criminal charges should be brought. Of course, what do I know, I'm one of the people that feels they should just blow Iraq off the face of the earth and be done with it.
kranky kranky 8 years
steph- Thanks for the article... think I'll save it until after Christmas, but I will read it, I promise. ;) You may be right about the disingenuous part, but my understanding is that waterboarding was one of the least offenses (like he slapped her and then ran her over with a car). But it's difficult to tease out from the information I've seen. Again, I have no opinion formed yet.
stephley stephley 8 years
Dave, if there's more to it, it is far more likely that the potential criminality extends beyond the top than it is that the actions weren't illegal. Krank - I researched and written on war crimes in Japan and Vietnam a number of years ago, so no I don't have resources handy to direct you to but there are any number of books written on the subject; it is disingenuous though, to refer to 'multiple abuses' and try to sort waterboarding out as one somehow separate issue. Abusing and torturing prisoners is illegal. Here's on good article I recently read: An interesting tidbit from it: "In 1983, federal prosecutors charged a Texas sheriff and three of his deputies with violating prisoners' civil rights by forcing confessions. The complaint alleged that the officers conspired to "subject prisoners to a suffocating water torture ordeal in order to coerce confessions. This generally included the placement of a towel over the nose and mouth of the prisoner and the pouring of water in the towel until the prisoner began to move, jerk, or otherwise indicate that he was suffocating and/or drowning." The four defendants were convicted, and the sheriff was sentenced to 10 years in prison."
mydiadem mydiadem 8 years
Nice 'culture of life', conservatives. Whether you think water boarding is illegal or not, or acts of torture are technically illegal or not, you should at least admit its immoral. Aren't we as Americans the bastions of morality? If you are really pro-life, or call yourself such in other posts about the rules of conscience, it would be nice if you were actually consistently pro-life. At least the Catholic Church is and has come out publicly against the actions at Guantanamo Bay.
kranky kranky 8 years
Steph- All the sources we found stated that the defendants were being tried for multiple abuses (such as setting people on fire) and that they had engaged in waterboarding. Can you share your sources that show that they were convicted to hard labor because they waterboarded? I could not find any. If you read the discussion then you know I have not made my mind up about this issue, so any facts you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
Don't the impeachment charges come from congress? Libs have the power, and yet nothings being done. Maybe it's because they are wimps (unlikely), or maybe it's because there is more to this, and their actions weren't illegal.
stephley stephley 8 years
Kranky, you might want to spend more time researching past war crimes tribunals - I saw part of that discussion and there were some gross over-simplifications of the facts. Waterboarding is a crime, so if you do it once, you could be convicted whether you did many other things or not.
kranky kranky 8 years
"Waterboarding is torture North Vietnamese Water boarding was used against U.S. POW's charges where brought against people who used Waterboarding against U.S. soldiers in WWII as well. The rules shouldn't change because the U.S. is now doing it period! " There was a discussion about this on Conservative Sugar the other day, and all signs pointed to the fact that the people who were tried in the war tribunals were convicted of doing many things, some of which happened to be waterboarding. Therefore, they weren't soley convicted of waterboarding.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
Yes, absolutely. Rule of law. If the officials broke the law, then they should be charged; they aren't exempt just because they're high officials.
stephley stephley 8 years
I don't know Dave - what's up with the Bush Justice Department not investigating the president? What's up with members of the Administration refusing to testify before Congress? What's up with members of Congress dragging their feet on a matter that could easily be taken out of their hands BY ANOTHER COUNTRY bringing charges? Write to your Congresspeople and tell them you support a Commission to investigate this, or just admit we already know and go straight to charges. Either works for me.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
So where are the charges? If there are that many records of illegal acts....
stephley stephley 8 years
A lot of what they did was illegal, according to CIA officials, Constitutional law experts, war crimes experts and members of the U.S. Congress - many of whom HAVE been calling for charges for years. The President can't simply have his lawyers write memos explaining why he can do illegal stuff and have that make it okay. Claiming the Bush Administration simply interrogated people is not going to impress anyone - there are too many people who know exactly what has gone on, records of injuries, angry CIA or military officials who quit in disgust...
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
interrogation: the act or process of questioning somebody closely, often in an aggressive manner, especially as part of an official investigation or trial
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
FYI: in⋅ter⋅ro⋅ga⋅tion   /ɪnˌtɛrəˈgeɪʃən/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [in-ter-uh-gey-shuhn] Show IPA Pronunciation –noun 1. the act of interrogating; questioning. 2. an instance of being interrogated: He seemed shaken after his interrogation. 3. a question; inquiry. 4. a written list of questions. 5. an interrogation point; question mark. I don't see anything that included physicallity in the definition of interrogation. Where I do see that is in..... torture noun 1. extreme mental distress [syn: anguish] 2. unbearable physical pain 3. intense feelings of suffering; acute mental or physical pain; "an agony of doubt"; "the torments of the damned" [syn: agony] 4. the act of distorting something so it seems to mean something it was not intended to mean [syn: distortion] 5. the deliberate, systematic, or wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more persons in an attempt to force another person to yield information or to make a confession or for any other reason; "it required unnatural torturing to extract a confession" 1. the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
Waterboarding is torture North Vietnamese Water boarding was used against U.S. POW's charges where brought against people who used Waterboarding against U.S. soldiers in WWII as well. The rules shouldn't change because the U.S. is now doing it period! I don't see how depriving someone of oxygen by frequent "mini-drownings" isn't torture. Is it something you would want your local police doing to suspects during and interrogation?
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
Yes, at times of war when U.S. Prisoners were tortured charges where brought against the perpretators. Torture is a war crime regardless of the country committing the crime and it should be punished equally across the board!
Jillness Jillness 8 years
Getting interrogated isn't the problem. Being tortured is. The 2 are not the same thing.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I think there needs to be a determination of the legality before any charges are brought. It seems to me that since we've known about this for 3-4 years, and nothing has been done, that there wasn't anything illegal.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
What they did wasn't illegal, we may not like it, it may not be pretty, but it wasn't illegal. And guess what, it will continue to happen now until forever. Even under Obama. People will always get interrogated, we will always gather intelligence.
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