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The Torture Memo

Are the Pentagon and Bush Administration to Blame For Torture?

What's being called the Torture Memo (written in 2003 and made public yesterday) sheds a bold light on upper official decrees on the definition of torture at the beginning of the Iraq War. The memo contains language telling Pentagon senior leadership that inflicting pain would not be considered torture unless it caused “death, organ failure or permanent damage.”

It is the most fully developed legal justification that has yet come to light for inflicting physical and mental pressure on suspects, and it was declassified in response to a request by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act. Campus Progress has a great breakdown of the quotes and arguments from the memo.

While top Pentagon officials, including Donald Rumsfeld, have said they never condoned mistreatment of prisoners, the role played by senior officials at the Pentagon has never been fully explained. Given the way some of the soldiers were held personally accountable for the events at Abu Ghraib, do you think the "culture of abuse" actually came as a directive from the top?


j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
Thank you jvpdc. Very well put. :highfive:
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
There is a difference, and we do treat the people we capture much better than they treat our captured. We have roughly 150 detained at guantanamo, they have 0 detained currently. Do you know why they don't have any? It's because they have KILLED all the people they have captured. How is this not better than they treat ours
rpenner rpenner 9 years
I couldn't state my opinion better that what stephley has said. I agree completely. And for UnDave and the others who have the "they don't care about us why should we care about them" attitude - Should we not lead by example rather than stoop to their inhuman levels?
stephley stephley 9 years
Yep, I know. Just get like a dog with a bone sometimes.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Steph I know we'll never agree on this, as we normally don't. But I think we have very different opinions stemming from our own personal experiences.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
"Pictures of their loved one stripped nude for the amusement of American soldiers, or being forced to simulate masturbation? Do you think their pain is less?" Than being beheaded? Yes.
stephley stephley 9 years
No warcrimes court is going to buy the this is an untraditional war argument - what the other side wears doesn't actually matter. The Palestinians don't all wear uniforms, does that allow Israel free rein with them? And it is just as difficult to explain to the family of a detainee that their loved one has died as a prisoner of the U.S. - all families feel pain. And how many families of prisoners held by the U.S. have or will someday see the photographs taken of them at Abu Ghraib? Pictures of their loved one stripped nude for the amusement of American soldiers, or being forced to simulate masturbation? Do you think their pain is less? War isn't clean but honorable people, military and civilian, have tried over centuries to keep them from becoming all out slaughters. It's hard to believe that a Christian nation like the United States is struggling with that concept.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
I think the problem is that we're comparing this to more tradional wars. This war is not traditional as undave commented, we're not fighting a uniformed military. We can argue all day about how we got here, but at the end of the day we're still fighting people in plain clothes who will strap bombs to children to kill innocent people and who won't think twice of capturing and beheading our soliers then dragging their bodies through the streets. So while I understand that in THEORY we should be the bigger people and treat them better than us... in practice its a lot harder to believe in. Some would argue thats why its more important, and I say fine. But its pretty hard to explain to the wife or mother of a beheaded soldier that we need to be kind of detainees. War is never clean, its ugly and dangerous. Torture is no one's first choice, which is probably why the times its successful don't get reported.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
cravinsugar - I have a copy of the Bill of Rights hanging not two feet from my desk. I carry a copy of the entire constitution in my purse, and I'm currently homeschooling my brother on the founding of our country. I've read it, ya' know, just once or twice. But thanks for the advice! I am well aware who it applies to. Read the Bill of Rights in it's entirety and show me where it states anything that says "These rights are given only to United States citizens." Go on. I'll wait. It doesn't. It makes references to what the Federal Government is and is not allowed to do. Never once does it state that it only applies to United States citizens.
stephley stephley 9 years
Charges against Bush in an impeachment trial could include lying to the American Congress and public in order to get us in to a war, illegal wiretapping, mishandling the war (rushing to war then not ensuring the troops had proper armored vehicles or bulletproof equipment), and detainee abuse. Interestingly, I've read that Bush could be guilty because he didn't fire Rumsfeld after Rumsfeld took responsibilty for Abu Ghraib - as president, he can be held responsible for Rumsfeld's lack of oversight. If we impeach Bush for anything war or abuse related, that could open the possibility of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez and American soldiers facing war crimes charges - "just following orders" didn't keep German soldiers out of prison.
cravinsugar cravinsugar 9 years
Matdredalia: Our Constitution only applies to the U.S.A and it's legal citizens. no one else. It is a guide for our country, not how we are supposed to treat other countries. Try reading it sometime.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
What I find interesting is that people seem to be forgetting that we haven't just tortured insurgents, because those are far from the only people in Guantanamo. Clear back in 2003 they admitted to having children as young as 13 in there. Considering many of them were captured immediately after we invaded Afghanistan, that means some of them were as young as 12 when captured. Of course, once this hit the public eye, they were released. And funny enough, they were released straight back to Afghanistan -- now, if they weren't part of the Jihad before, I'm willing to wager a guess that they certainly are now. What I find most saddening is how many people here think that it doesn't matter if we torture people or not, because our enemies will torture our soldiers regardless. Why does that make it right? Why does it make it okay to commit horrible acts against people and commit torture? Just because they do it, it's okay for us to commit unspeakable human rights violations and hold people without due process? So, let's see, give the world MORE of a reason to hate us, while we commit unspeakable acts that our country outright condemns in it's Constitution, for absolutely NO reason. Because do you honestly think that if everyone of these people IS a part of the al-Qaeda or other group, they're just going to break and spill all under torture after a lifetime of conditioning? Hell, some of them have been held there so long that they probably don't even KNOW what the hell is going on and wouldn't know about a terrorist attack even if it was on the 6 o'clock news here in America. Torture is morally wrong, why does that seem to be up for debate? And as for whether or not it came from the higher ups: Definitely. Cheney and Bush have been clear about their stance on torture and have gone to far as to make sure certain anti-torture legislation has been thrown out. Does this memo prove it? No. But it doesn't have to.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
What would McC try Pres Bush for? He hasn't done anything that is illegal. If he had, the impeachment process would've begun two years ago. (If I misinterpreted your statement I'm sorry, please correct me)
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Do we cut off people's heads too?
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
I think McC may just try Pres Bush when he gets to office.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Very well said Cravin.
cravinsugar cravinsugar 9 years
I am not even going to read other comment sright now because I am at work and don't hae time to respond, but here is my opinion: i chose other. Because, regardless of what the memo says, if an enemy of the U.S. takes a member of our military or country hostage, they don't worry about memo's, they don't worry about laws; they hurt, maim, physically, emotionally, and psychologically as much as they want. I think that, allowing us to inflict pain, as long as there is no long term damage or death, evens the playing field. Why should we show respect for their troops and citizens when they show no respect for ours?
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 9 years
As far as I'm concerned torturing prisoners makes us no different from the monsters that roam the rest of the world. both sides are righteous in their anger and are convinced the other one is the once completely in the wrong. The only difference is one doesn't behead it's prisoners.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
What would you prefer we do with enemy combatents? Should we follow the preferred method of our enemy and execute them? I agree that they need to be sorted, given the opportunity to stand trail for their accused crimes, and those who are found not guilty released and given restitution for the time they were held. I'm against the indescriminate senseless demeaning of humans that happened at Abu Grab (sp), but if a detainee has information that could help our cause, I support any method of obtaining that information. Something else to keep in mind - the threat of torture is often more effective in getting someone to talk than actually using torture. If a detainee thinks he can keep quiet without fear of pain, then there is no reason for him to talk.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 9 years
I think that mistakes are made and it could be anyone who ends up in Guantanamo and if I was htere Lord knows I would not want to be tortured. Funny thing is people cry over animals being tortured or maimed, throw flour bombs and take out full page ads mocking celebs for wearing fur but we are content to let people get tortured, even if in some cases they have no clue what is going on. that is what I don't get about human nature.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
"we'll never know how many" is right, so how can you say most?
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 9 years
stephley you have said everything that needs to be said. I totally agree with you.
stephley stephley 9 years
If you wanted an enemy in uniform, you should have picked a commander in chief who'd invade a country with an army ready to fight back - like Iran maybe. Most of the detainees aren't terrorists, and many were never guilty of any crime other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time - we'll never know how many because we're also thwarting our own judicial standards with their captivity and 'trials'. Any murder is one death too many - whether its an American victim or not.
hebrew-hunny hebrew-hunny 9 years
I totally agree with you Stephley...very well said.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
Stephley...beautifully put. I've nothing more to add. You said it all :)
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