The latest revelations on the torture front show—the memo from John Yoo—as well as revelations from Phillippe Sands’ book, mean that Donald Rumsfeld, David Addington and John Yoo should not leave the United States any time soon. They will be at some point indicted for war crimes. They deserve to be. (Check out the video.)
Phillippe Sands is author of a book to be released on May 18, 2008, titled Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values. I obviously haven’t read the book, but I found a review on Amazon by someone who had, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. This is what he said about Sands’ book:
"Philippe Sands has uncovered the proper assignment of responsibility for torture and cruel and unusual punishment administered by the U.S. in the so-called Global War on Terror. Read this book to learn who made these decisions. More importantly, read it to learn how under George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney America abandoned its strongest pillar of power--its own integrity." (Bold is mine)
It's a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court.
As is obvious in an English translation of Gestapo chief Heinrich Müller’s directive, the methods are indistinguishable from those described as "enhanced interrogation techniques" by President Bush.
Sullivan cites a court case from Norway in 1948 that weighed whether “enhanced interrogation” using methods approved by President Bush amounted to torture. He reviews the charges against three Germans convicted of war crimes for “enhanced interrogation” and observes:
Freezing prisoners to near-death, repeated beatings, long forced-standing, waterboarding, cold showers in air-conditioned rooms, stress positions [Arrest mit Verschaerfung], withholding of medicine and leaving wounded or sick prisoners alone in cells for days on end - all these have occurred at US detention camps under the command of president George W. Bush. Over a hundred documented deaths have occurred in these interrogation sessions. The Pentagon itself has conceded homicide by torture in multiple cases.
In deciding the degree of punishment, the Court found it decisive that the defendants had inflicted serious physical and mental suffering on their victims, and did not find sufficient reason for a mitigation of the punishment in accordance with the provisions laid down in Art. 5 of the Provisional Decree of 4th May, 1945. The Court came to the conclusion that such acts, even though they were committed with the connivance of superiors in rank or even on their orders, must be regarded and punished as serious war crimes.
And the Nazis tried to argue, just as John Yoo did, that this made torturing them legit. The victims were paramilitary Norwegians, operating as an insurgency, against an occupying force. And the torturers had also interrogated some prisoners humanely.
Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - "enhanced interrogation techniques" - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.
"Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."
I don’t think a change in administration in itself will be sufficient to regain what has been lost of the American soul or re-establish credibility with our friends and enemies. Are there indictments for war crimes in our future, as Sullivan predicts? What do you think?
NOTE: We might get to hear how Clinton and Obama view the events on torture as they unfolded this week. I received a note Thursday from NRCAT (National Religious Campaign Against Torture) with word of a “Compassion Forum” to be broadcast on CNN on Sunday, April 13 at 8 p.m. EDT.
This is all I know about the program. If you have more information, please add it in a comment.