Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Worth Reading: Mark Danner on 'U.S. Torture at Black Sites'

The Bush Administration was never much for the niceties of international law. For Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Feith and Yoo, such agreements were quaint relics of an earlier era.

Geneva Conventions?—who needs 'em. Rule of law?—Doesn't apply. U.S. torturing people?—Never happened.

The truth, of course, is much more complicated. That's one of the conclusions of Mark Danner's extensive account of a secret International Committee of the Red Cross investigation U.S. treatment of "high value detainees" in CIA custody.

The report does the nation no honor. Indeed, it's a long and harrowing account of prisoner mistreatment and, yes, torture. As Danner reports, the U.S. "transformed itself from a country that, officially at least, condemned torture to a country that practiced it."

So much for our high moral ground.

For America's enemies, this sort of thing has long been a red flag, practically a recruiting poster for every sort of hare-brained terrorist who ever wanted to think poorly of the U.S.—and go on to pledge "Death to America."

Should the U.S. lock up and interrogate America's enemies? Absolutely. Should we use the information we learn from terrorists to safeguard the U.S. and undermine the bad guys? Of course.

But we should not use terrorism and the defense of the nation to undermine the values that we as a nation represent, things like the rule of law, international agreements and basic human dignity.

As Danner's story shows, the Bush team was far from the mark when it shuffled terrorists off to "black sites" where they could be mistreated at will and "disappeared."

Read the story (from the New York Review of Books) for yourself here.