Torturing Ourselves over Torture
William S. Shepard (FSO, Ret.)
I enjoyed talking with one of your representatives on Foreign Affairs Day, and hearing that my old acquaintance from Saigon Jim Bullington is editor of your effort. I was all set to sign up for the journal.
However, on accessing the website today for the first time, I found the revolting Jones article on torture. As a former Army JAG officer before entering the Foreign Service, I specialized in the law of war and American traditions in this vital area. I also liaised with the ICRC while with the Political Section of our Embassy in Saigon. They were a tough, responsible outfit.
We led the way, with the Lieber Code, before there were any Geneva Conventions. And those, as well as the later Hague Regulations, we took an active part in formulating, and with good reason. The policies, if such there be, of the current administration are not just disgraceful, they are illegal on multiple counts under our own law. Furthermore, they not only do not work - they create terrorists, including of course the initial batch of people who were scooped up in Afghanistan and sold for bounty to the United States, for imprisonment first at Bagram and then at Guantanamo. Does it make a difference? I would like to think so. The list of prisoners who have died in our custody by the way now exceeds 100 I only include those whom the United States Army CID lists as homicides.
One of the problems with this garbage is that we had a perfectly working set of rules well in place before the Bush Administration took office. Terrorists could have been identified, isolated and interrogated and tried, and kept imprisoned for the duration under existing rules. But secret prisons and torture and flat disobeying of the rules of the game have made the war on terror infinitely more difficult. Ignorance of the law and its basis, combined with fear tactics appealing to our worst instincts, have been displayed instead.
I hope Mr. Jones will take his list of horribles and substitute, for a terrorist, a terrorist's three year old daughter whom we have in custody. Then tell us what action befits the United States. How should we torture her? Will Mr. Jones elucidate?
I am old enough to recall what we found on liberating Germany in 1945. I also remember some Germans who told us that this can happen anywhere. I never believed it then. But with the first steps that we have taken in the direction of inhumanity, with deep regret I am starting to believe it now.
Sorry, you will have to do far better than this trash.