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Friday, May 6, 2011

The Torture Debate Continues. Here's Why.

William Yeomans offers some great insight and analysis into the renewed debate over torture in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death:
The unity and pride inspired by the killing of Osama Bin Laden has quickly deteriorated into a nasty debate over the effectiveness of torture.

The administration is reportedly upset by this diversion. But President Barack Obama has nobody to blame but himself.

While President George W. Bush took the nation down the dark path to torture, Obama ensured that it remained part of our national debate by failing to investigate and hold to account those who tortured.

His failure to do so means that we now debate publicly whether or not to torture based on assessments of whether or not torture is effective – a question relevant only if we accept that effective torture is justified. Torture, it seems, is no longer immoral or unlawful so long as it works.

The current debate offers occasion to consider the distance we have covered in legitimating torture. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan — no national security softy — signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture. In his signing statement, Reagan denounced torture as an “abhorrent” practice and emphasized the need for universal jurisdiction to prosecute individuals who engaged in torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading practices.

The convention, later ratified by the Senate, obligates nations to prosecute treaty violators. At the time, it was unthinkable that the United States – the world’s beacon for human rights — would make use of torture and cruel practices official policy. Indeed, Congress passed legislation to make torture a criminal offense.
Read more here.

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