Our Christian President is currently challenging the standards set by the Geneva Convention in regards to the treatment of prisoners in the war on terrorism. Although the Supreme Court ruled that his system of treating detainees since the beginning of the war on terrorism was illegal, he is pressing for Congress to legistlate around the Supreme Courts ruling in order to allow his illegal programs to continue. It is unfortunate that our President, who is a Christian, has misunderstood the teachings of Jesus in a way that makes him believe that torturing our enemies in this war on terror is acceptable. In Article 3 of the Geneva convention, it stipulates against “cruel, inhumane and degrading” treatment of prisoners and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.” Bush has called the language used in this article “vague” and not clear enough in order for our intelligence officers to know where the legal limit is in regards to “tough interrogation” techniques. Maybe I’m wrong here, but the only reason the language in Article 3 would be called “vague” is because the President wants to extend beyond where the current standard is currently set. If he were not interested in torturing prisoners, then there would be no reason to characterize the Geneva Convention’s language as “vague” and in need of revision.
There are a lot of moral questions we face today, especially as Christians in the midst of this struggle for national security. How we treat our enemies will shape what kind of nation we are. I pray that the religous community in this country will recognize the importance of this issue and speak out for peace even in the face of danger.
Check out the National Religious Campaign Against Torture website and, if you are moved, endorse their statement against the use of torture by the United States. Here is the statement:
Torture Is A Moral Issue
A Statement of the
National Religious Campaign against Torture
Please join the over 6500 people who
have already endorsed this statement.
Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dear. It degrades everyone involved –policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation’s most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.
Torture and inhumane treatment have long been banned by U.S. treaty obligations, and are punishable by criminal statute. Recent developments, however, have created new uncertainties. By reaffirming the ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as well as torture, the McCain amendment, now signed into law, is a step in the right direction. Yet its implementation remains unclear.
The President’s signing statement, which he issued when he signed the McCain Amendment into law, implies that the President does not believe he is bound by the amendment in his role as commander in chief. The possibility remains open that inhumane methods of interrogation will continue.
Furthermore, in a troubling development, for the first time in our nation’s history, legislation has now been signed into law that effectively permits evidence obtained by torture to be used in a court of law. The military tribunals that are trying some terrorist suspects are now expressly permitted to consider information obtained under coercive interrogation techniques, including degrading and inhumane techniques and torture.
We urge Congress and the President to remove all ambiguities by prohibiting:
-Exemptions from the human rights standards of international law for any arm of our government.
-The practice of extraordinary rendition, whereby suspects are apprehended and flown to countries that use torture as a means of interrogation.
-Any disconnection of “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” from the ban against “torture” so as to permit inhumane interrogation.
-The existence of secret U.S. prisons around the world.
-Any denial of Red Cross access to detainees held by our government overseas.
-We also call for an independent investigation of the severe human rights abuses at U.S. installations like Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.
Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed? Let America abolish torture now –without exceptions.
More worthwhile articles on this subject:
“Long Time Standing” – Andrew Sullivan
“How Bush Rules” – Think Progress
“Bush’s Fight with Congress over Torture Defines Our Character” – Alternet.org