Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Christian Right XVI Torture Is OK 86

The U.S.A. and the Christian Right: Torture Accepted
"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."

-- Thomas Paine

  1. Torture is a federal felony under USC 18 punishable by imprisonment and the death penalty

  1. The Christian Right is deaf to the law and to “fundamental” human decency

  1. What the Christian Right Thinks

  1. What Conniving at Torture Means to the Future of the United States of America

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Torture is a federal felony under USC 18 punishable by imprisonment and the death penalty

The Geneva Conventions ARE PART OF US FEDERAL LAW:


  1. Offense.— Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.

  1. Circumstances.— The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the person committing such war crime or the victim of such war crime is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).

  1. Definition.— As used in this section the term “war crime” means any conduct—

  1. defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;
  2. prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;
  3. which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non-international armed conflict; or
  4. of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians.

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United States of America:
The United States has openly declared itself to be against torture, but it has been endlessly accused of carrying out violations against human rights in conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Accusations attack United States’ international prisons that include Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Abu Ghriab in Iraq. In the year 2001, 45 detainees died in US custody due to being suspected of criminal homicides. 8 people were torture to death, and 98 detainees died in US custody in Iran or Afghanistan. Evidence shows that torture has been employed in these prisons, but the USA continues to deny these claims

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outside confirmation of torture and deaths:

Report probes US custody deaths

BBC News February 21, 2006

Almost 100 prisoners have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, according to US group Human Rights First.

The details were first aired on BBC television's Newsnight programme.

]Of the 98 deaths, at least 34 were suspected or confirmed homicides, the programme said.

The Pentagon told Newsnight it had not seen the report but took allegations of maltreatment "very seriously" and would prosecute if necessary.
The report, which is to be published on Wednesday, draws on information from Pentagon and other official US sources.


Human Rights First representative Deborah Pearlstein told Newsnight she was "extremely comfortable" that the information was reliable.

The report defines the 34 cases classified as homicides as "caused by intentional or reckless behaviour".

It says another 11 cases have been deemed suspicious and that between eight and 12 prisoners were tortured to death.

But despite this, charges are rare and sentences are light, the report says.

Speaking on the programme, the US ambassador to Iraq said the "overwhelming number" of troops behaved according to the law.

But Zalmay Khalilzad said abuses did exist.

"They are human beings, they violate the law, they make mistakes and they have to be held accountable and the good thing about our system is that we do hold people accountable," he said.

Investigation call

UK MP Bob Marshall-Andrews told the Press Association that the report confirmed "in statistical terms the appalling evidence already available in footage".

"If it is indeed systemic, then the responsibility for it must go right to the top, and that would apply to both British and American governments," he said.

A spokesman for Amnesty International UK called for a probe into the deaths in custody.

"Deaths in custody during the war on terror are a real matter of concern to us and we want to see the US and its allies allowing a full independent and impartial investigation into these deaths, as well as mounting incidents of alleged torture and other mistreatment," he said.

He said Amnesty had raised the issue of "overly lenient sentences" for those found guilty of mistreating prisoners.

Last week, an Australian TV channel broadcast previously unpublished images showing apparent US abuse of prisoners in Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail in 2003.

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    The Christian Right is deaf to the law and to “fundamental” human decency

The essential position of the Christian right “snaps” back to the days before Magna Carta, when anyone can be killed or abused on the orders of the King.

The power of the crown was limited to prevent the King from murdering another bishop. The Norman barons, the gentry, the freeman and the serfs all supported this approach over blind loyalty to the king. Limitation of the king's powers was originated by the Church to protect itself. The kingdom that made this advance in civilization has not lost a war on its own territory since adopting this limitation on power. Further details are provided earlier in this blog.

I have never talked to an evangelical person or member of the Christian right who understood the genius of Magna Carta and its civilizing limitations on power. Not one. Defenders of American torture say dreadful and irrelevant things: that as long as abortion is legal in the United States, the torture is irrelevant (!). That it saves American lives (how can this be when torture is such a notoriously unreliable way to gain strategic information of importance? Further, torture guarantees future American deaths in wartime (see the subheading below on the future).

I have also mentioned to evangelical Christians the fact that NATO citizens of Germany and Canada have been mistakenly tortured, seriously weakening the grand alliance that was critical to winning the Cold War. They are indifferent to alliances or such ivory tower war college thinking. Bush is a born again Christian and he approved it, and that is all they need to know. Bush did indeed authorize it (thus admitting a federal felony!) in his autobiography released several days ago. He did it to save lives (an illogical argument, since tortured detainees will say anything to stop the torture, often shrewdly guessing what the torturer wants to hear).

The ineffectiveness of information received under duress has no impact on an apologist from the Christian right. It's us or them. We have to be ruthless. There are only two possibilities – the preservation of a Christian west or Muslim domination.

The good news is that the sales pitch of the Christian right is peculiarly ineffective for most young Americans. In the long run, its religious stagnation and bad politics. The Christian right is growing grey rapidly. Eventually, indefinite detention without trial and with torture will end; but even if it ended tomorrow, it would still be enough to taint the United States and its military and its politicians for centuries to many others in the world, especially those living in the Middle East.

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    What the Christian Right Thinks

The Christian right thinks that a Holy War is necessary against Moslems. The Christian right is especially delighted at the thought of military conflict between Christians and others in the world.

The Christian right misses Bush and Cheney. Here were these drunks who found Christ and then made it all the way to the top! These are the heroes who made being born again respectable! Bush said in an unrehearsed debate that “Jesus Christ,” was the most important philosopher that he followed, “because he saved my life.” This was music to their ears. And it wasn't mocked or laughed at by the press nor pundits. Evangelism is now respectable and a winning political approach. Hallelujah.

Limited power? Torture as a felony? The Constitution? “It's just a goddamned piece of paper,” George W. Bush almost certainly said to a closed caucus meeting of Republican Senators. No one in the Christian right was offended by the Lord's name being taken in vain by another born again, one who successfully rose to power.

Support for Bush and Cheney is support for being born again which is support for guiding one's life by personal hysteria. The reason for the hysteria is despair. The REAL conversion, my dear blog readers, is from pouting with despair to proudly seething with resentment. Chris Hedges, a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School and former Pulitzer Prize winner, discussed this in an article “Despair Drives Christian Right” on page C1 of the January 14, 2007 Philadelphia Inquirer. This became the source material for chapter 2 of Hedges' 2008 book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. Hedges begins his book with a quote from Blaise Pascal:

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

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  1. What Conniving at Torture Means to the Future of the United States of America

It will mean that it will be difficult and expensive to fill the all-volunteer Army (although the current recession and high college tuition costs are helping recruiters fill quotas at the moment – see ).

It is meaning that we are moving toward armed forces that are far more religious than the general public – with unknown long term consequences that could be dangerous.

It will certainly mean that in the next large-scale war, Americans themselves will be mercilessly tortured, since the world knows that torture is how America conducts itself militarily.

The Christian right wants America to pick fights and stay in military engagements. The ascendency of this group over one of America's political parties has made indefinite limited warfare a standard fact of American life (Iraq indefinitely since 1991 and Afghanistan since 2001). The other political party, feeling the pressure to look tough and win battles, elected a president in 2008 partly by a hawkish stance on Afghanistan, a strategic irrelevancy that is not going well militarily for the USA. This same party campaigned against torture but almost immediately backtracked once in power, and can now be counted on to continue the policy of indefinite detention, though the tactic is itself the definition of a police state.

We can count on long-lasting American military alliances to be less effective in the future. NATO was seriously weakened by the participation of European allies in Afghanistan. Future adventures will have to be accomplished with fewer allies.

The religious fervor of America's limited wars, especially concentrating as they do on Islamic nations, has heated the desire of those nations for nuclear weapons to a fever pitch. Nuclear proliferation has never been as dangerous as it has become, worldwide, after the 2001 Afghanistan incursion and 2003 Iraq invasion. Many governments of the second and third world want their own nuclear devices; some will get them.

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