Combating simplistic justifications.

An entry over at Mike Wendland’s E-Journal got my dander up a bit:

Saddam’s torture chambers Should you need more justification for the efforts to free Iraq from Saddam, here’s a piece from the Sun about one of the torture chambers coalition troops have found.

Is anyone else getting as tired of pro-war people using this over-simplified justification as I am? The response I did up in my comments to this entry was long enough and good enough that I thought I should reprint them here as well:

Yes, we all know Saddam is a bad, bad man. Yes, we all know he tortures his own people in terrible ways. Why do all the pro-war people seem to think this one reason alone is more than ample justification to launch a war on Iraq? Are you people even aware of how many other countries routinely make use of torture of a similar nature against their prisoners?

If that’s all the justification we need then why aren’t we going after Chile, Turkey, Tibet, Haiti, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Syria or Libya among many others? All have been identified by the U.S. Department of State in a 2002 report as having made use of torture of various types against prisoners both foreign and domestic. Some less sadistic than what has happened in Iraq and some more sadistic.

In Egypt, considered a U.S. Ally, the penal code punishes the practice of torturing a defendant or giving orders to torture a defendant with a felony that could result in imprisonment with hard labor for 3 to 10 years.

Despite these legal safeguards, there were numerous, credible reports that security forces tortured and mistreated citizens. Reports of torture and mistreatment at police stations remained frequent. While the Government investigated torture complaints in criminal cases and punished some offending officers, the punishments generally have not conformed to the seriousness of the offense.

Principal methods of torture reportedly employed by the police included: Being stripped and blindfolded; suspended from a ceiling or door frame with feet just touching the floor; beaten with fists, whips, metal rods, or other objects; subjected to electrical shocks; and doused with cold water. Victims frequently reported being subjected to threats and forced to sign blank papers to be used against the victim or the victim’s family in the future should the victim complain of abuse. Some victims, including male and female detainees, reported that they were sexually assaulted or threatened with the rape of themselves or family members.

In March the EOHR reported 59 documented cases of torture in 2001 in police stations and other detention centers, in which 11 victims died. The report included nine cases of citizens apparently unaffiliated with any political group or trend. In one case, four family members of a wanted defendant were tortured. Twenty-two of the cases involved individuals on trial for conspiracy to commit terrorism and membership in an extremist organization, known as the “Wa’ad” (“The Promise”) (see Section 1.e.). One individual arrested in a police Internet “sting” claimed that he had been tortured (see Sections 1.d., 1.f., and 2.a.). —Source: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002

But let’s move away from the Middle East and take a look at a country that uses torture methods similar to what has been used in Iraq. That would be Russia:

Torture by police officers usually occurred within the first few hours or days of arrest and usually took one of four forms: Beatings with fists, batons, or other objects; asphyxiation using gas masks or bags (sometimes filled with mace); electric shocks; or suspension of body parts (e.g., suspending a victim from the wrists, which are tied together behind the back). Allegations of torture were difficult to substantiate because of lack of access by medical professionals and because the techniques used often left few or no permanent physical traces. There were credible reports that government forces and Chechen fighters in Chechnya tortured detainees (see Section 1.g.).—Source: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002

Then there’s good old North Korea which not only doesn’t have any laws prohibiting torture, but is also racing to develop nuclear weapons and threatening to use them in a first strike against U.S. troops if they feel threatened enough.

Torture is not prohibited by law. Methods of torture reportedly routinely used on political prisoners included severe beatings, electric shock, prolonged periods of exposure, humiliations such as public nakedness, and confinement to small “punishment cells,” in which prisoners were unable to stand upright or lie down, where they could be held for several weeks. According to defector reports, many prisoners died from torture, disease, starvation, exposure, or a combination of these causes. The U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea claimed that approximately 400,000 persons died in prison since 1972.—Source: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002

Clearly the fact that a particular government may or may not torture people is not in and of itself much of a consideration in the Bush administration’s decision making process. At best the fact that Saddam’s removal will bring to an end torture in Iraq, at least until the next government is in place, is a nice side-benefit and a wonderful bit of PR for the administration to play up. However, if the pro-war camp is going to try and use it as a primary justification for this war then they should at least try to explain why the same standard isn’t being applied to all the other countries currently torturing people.

5 thoughts on “Combating simplistic justifications.

  1. It is more like the Hawks trying to put a compassionate spin on a war that looks more and more corrupt…unless no bid contracts going to Haliburton and Motorola (among others) to help “re-build” a country we are actively engaged in destroying is above board. Bush and company are back and better than ever with their backroom deals designed to funnel money to their friends and contributors. I can understand filthy rich capitalists voting and supporting the republicans and their agendas, I can even understand the people who have been duped into thinking that they can BECOME one of those filthy rich capitalists, but what is the motivation for the rest? A place by their masters feet with the rest of the hounds? If you are reading this face it – you are never going to sit at that table dividing up the world as if it were your own personal fiefdom, if your lucky you can aspire to be one of their servants but more likely you will never achieve a rank higher than the dogs.

    Here is the quotation portion of my rant:

    Elections belong to the people. It is their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.
    Abraham Lincoln

    As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.
    Abraham Lincoln

    Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
    Abraham Lincoln

    A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular.
    Adlai Ewing Stevenson

    Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they’ve told you what you think it is you want to hear.
    Alan Coren

    Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it’s something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles.
    Abbie Hoffman

    The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.
    Alice Walker

  2. Well, if you’re going to say that the pro-war (come on though, nobody is really pro war) is simplistic because many say that it’s because of torture, then you should also rail on the simplistic protesters who say that this war is only for the oil.

    It goes both ways…

  3. I do and I have. Anyone who thinks this war is just for oil is living in a dream world. I’ve said before that I think Bush is an idiot, but he’s not stupid. Invading Iraq for the oil is the first thing everything is going to accuse him of so it would be the last reason he’d do it.

    Personally, I think deep down Bush believes he’s honestly doing the right thing. I think he has some alterior motives too, but not for the oil.

  4. Hello,
    Something missing form this Dept. of State printing is that The United States is also on that list of Countries that engage in torture. This comes from Amnesty International, Unicef and U.N. Documents relating to the misuse of the Geneva Convention Bylaws. Use of White Noise and sleep deprivation was an admitted form of torture at Guantanamo Bay by American forces to the Afghan Prisoners, but released prisoners have signs of bloodletting and shock-treatment. America is under investigation by the UN. for not following regulations concerning torture. (Geneva Convention) In fact the subject has been covered quite a bit on Canadian Television, BBC and other independents, but now by U.S. News sources. However the checks and balances for these things is off kilter quite a bit. The UN is to blame for that as well.

    James
    Portland Oregon

  5. You will note my utter lack of surprise upon hearing that the U.S. could be involved in torturing prisoners. It is the logical progression when you have a nation of aggressive, violent, paranoid citizens that their government and military would evolve into a dictatorial repressive regime – luckily we have an Iraqi ‘other’ to persecute. The problem is that 70% of the citizenry will feel that the use of torture was justified because we are trying to avoid further acts of terrorism. The 30% that don’t are unpatriotic and bear further scrutiny and possible detention.

    And this to CDH; I never said that this war was ONLY about the oil, there was at the core the need to finish what his father started like the dutiful fortunate son that W is. The poorly titled ‘oil-for-food’ program does not really sound like the selfless humanitarian aid that one would expect from such a magnanimous country such as the U.S., it sounds like we want their oil…for food. Not food-for-free, sand-for-food, or dance-like-a-happy-monkey-for-food…oil for food.

    That aside the government is awarding contracts, not getting bids like you might do in a free market to encourage competition, no they are awarding contracts to cronies of the Bush family and political allies so the filthy rich can become even filthier rich. So not only are we screwing the people of Iraq by bombing them, and starving them, and terrifying them we are also screwing the rest of the world AND other companies in the U.S. out of the chance to participate in making wads of cash off of the misery of a forcibly liberated people.

    One would think that the Republican Party would be howling about the unfairness of no bid contracts being particularly un-American but they are between a rock and a hard place, not wanting to be critical of King George but also wanting to be part of the orgy of money that rebuilding Iraq represents. I am sure that this war isn’t JUST about the oil…we will have lots of sand for all the beaches fronting the new mansions that W’s friends will be able to build with their chunk of the restoration cash.

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