Will The Election Decide What Is Considered 'Torture'?

September 28, 2012

torture protest washington dc
© Shawn Duffy

Yesterday The New York Times published a story with the headline “Election May Decide When Interrogation Amounts to Torture.” It compares and contrasts President Obama and Governor Romney on torture.

While there are a number of points in the article one could address—for example, the claim that techniques approved in the Army Field Manual are “nonabusive”—the bigger picture is this:

  • U.S. torture was, and continues to be, about systemic institutional failures, including an over emphasis on domestic political values at the expense of international standards, and the failure to end impunity and lack of remedy for past abuses.

As Amnesty International warned nearly a year ago in the report “Guantanamo: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights:”

“Just as it was presidential orders that set the policy lead on detainee treatment in the years after 9/11, today also the policy has been set by presidential order. While interrogation policy now more closely approaches international law on detainee treatment, the question as to what happens when a President with a different approach takes office remains an open one. The door to US torture remains far from being firmly closed and bolted shut.

…History repeats itself when its lessons are ignored. President Obama’s missed deadline of 22 January 2010 for closure of the Guantánamo detention facility has passed into history. It has been replaced with no firm date or plan for closure and the prospect of a new US President embracing the Guantánamo detention facility as a permanent fixture now looms.

In similar vein, without the necessary investigations, prosecutions, reparations, transparency and legislation, President Obama’s executive order of 22 January 2009 prohibiting long-term secret detention and “enhanced interrogation techniques” may yet come to be seen as no more than a paper obstacle if and when any future US President decides that torture or enforced disappearance are once again expedient for national security.”

Tweet against torture. Tweet the moderator of the first Presidential Debate on October 3rd, Jim Lehrer, this request:

Pls @NewsHour ask candidates: What will u do to ensure the US meets its obligations under the Convention Against #Torture? #Debate2012