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.