Last week, the Department of Justice released memos from the former administration which authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques. The memos describe in horrifying detail techniques authorized by the Department of Justice on detainees in Gitmo and other black sites. Upon the release of the memos, the President said, “In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.” He goes on to say, “This is a time for reflection, not retribution.” In other words, we aren’t going to prosecute war criminals. With all due respect Mr. President, the last time I checked, justice is not retribution.
First off, the memos attempt to justify the acts of torture as not torture, even though our own government acknowledges these techniques as torture prior to September 11th. In the memos, they go on to say that because the interrogations do not take place in areas under US control (aka black sites), they are exempt from Geneva Conventions. In reading the memos, this infers that even if the techniques are torture (which they are) the US would be above the law because technically, the torture is taking place in others countries outside of US control. It is perfectly clear, even to someone that never had any law training; the memos were a lame attempt at justifying an illegal act as legal.
Some have said that waterboarding is not torture. Here is an account of waterboarding recipient, Ramon Navarro, as described in 1947 court proceedings in the trial of a WWII Japanese war criminal:
Col. Keeley: And then did he take you back to your room?
Navarro: When Yuki could not get anything out of me, he wanted the interpreter to place me down below. And I was told by Yuki to take off all my clothes, so what I did was to take off my clothes as ordered. I was ordered to lay on a bench and Yuki tied my feet, hands and neck to that bench, lying with my face upward. After I was tied to the bench, Yuki placed some cloth on my face. And then with water from the faucet, they poured on me until I became unconscious. He repeated that four or five times.
You mean he brought water and poured water down your throat?
No sir, on my face, until I became unconscious. We were lying that way, with some cloth on my face, and then Yuki poured water on my face continuously.
And you couldn’t breathe?
No, I could not, and so I, for a time, lost consciousness. I found my consciousness came back again and found Yuki was sitting on my stomach. And then I vomited the water from my stomach, and the consciousness came back again for me.
Where did the water come out when he sat on your stomach?
From my mouth and all openings of my face … and then Yuki would repeat the same treatment and the same procedure to me until I became unconscious again.
How many times did that happen?
Around four or five times, from two o’clock up to four o’clock in the afternoon. When I was not able to endure his punishment which I received, I told a lie to Yuki … . I could not really show anything to Yuki, because I was really lying just to stop the torture.
Was it painful?
Not so painful, but one becomes unconscious — like drowning in the water.
Like you were drowning?
Drowning. You could hardly breathe.
Anti-torture legislation in the US clearly prohibits techniques that employ the “threat of imminent death” (18 USC Sections 2340 and 2340A). Simulating drowning is a threat of imminent death. But the US did not just stop at waterboarding. The Department of Justice authorized the use of sleep deprivation (up to 7 ½ days at a time) and strict liquid-only diets to be used in conjunction with the waterboarding techniques.
To those who say that is not torture, would you want any US service member to endure this? Would you want these techniques used against you if you were accused of committing a crime? Would you want any of these acts committed under your name? If we do not prosecute these acts, how then can we justify prosecuting future war crimes against us? Mr. President, by refusing to prosecute, you have gone against your oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, specifically Article VI, paragraph 2.
(You can read the memos and sign the petition requesting independent prosecutor to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute individuals who authorized and used torture here.)