On September 28th the Senate passed a “Torture
Compromise Bill” that in practice will eliminate
restrictions on torture and the cruel treatment of prisoners.
This is a defining moment for
This bill ignores international agreements
that we have signed and it ignores our own long-standing
judicial precedents such as habeas corpus, which
prevents the practice of arbitrary imprisonments. It
is incomprehensible how the majority of our representatives
were willing to throw away American and international conventions
on human rights while creating a law that is typical of
Human rights are safeguarded in America
by a justice system of “innocent until proven guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt.” Now, fear has created
an America where people are often pre-judged based on race,
ethnicity, religion, gossip and falsehood. This is a step
backward for America.
Our justice system further prohibits “cruel
and unusual punishment.” Cruelty takes many forms,
but the consequences are always the same: it brutalizes
the society that perpetrates it. When our leaders use fear
and doubt to justify acts of cruelty, they are eroding
the moral foundation of our civilization.
Further safeguards of our rights are the
checks and balances provided for in our constitution to
prevent each branch of government from acting without accountability.
So how can Attorney General Gonzales justify silencing
the Judiciary while giving the President “carte blanche” to
do as he wishes?
Gonzales states "… when courts
issue decisions that overturn long-standing traditions
or policies without proper support in text or precedent,
they cannot — and should not — be shielded
from criticism…” Yet he would shield Bush
from criticism for overturning provisions of the International
Declaration of Human Rights,
Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United
No one shall be subjected to torture
or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
full text of Declaration)
Article 3 of the Geneva Convention on the
Treatment of Prisoners of War,
Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners
Adopted on 12 August 1949
In the case of armed conflict not
of an international character occurring in the territory
of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party
to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum,
the following provisions:
1. Persons taking no active part
in the hostilities, including members of armed forces
who have laid down their arms and those placed hors
de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any
other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated
humanely, without any adverse distinction founded
on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or
wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end the following acts are
and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any
place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned
(a) Violence to life and person,
in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel
treatment and torture;
(b) Taking of hostages;
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity,
in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) The passing of sentences and
the carrying out of executions without previous judgment
pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording
all the judicial guarantees which are recognized
as indispensable by civilized peoples.
full text of Geneva Convention)
and provisions of the United States Constitution!
may give the president the power to lock up almost
anyone he thinks is a terror threat.
By Bruce Ackerman, BRUCE ACKERMAN
is a professor of law and political science at
Yale and author of "Before the Next Attack:
Preserving Civil Liberties in an Age of Terrorism."
The Los Angeles Times September 28, 2006.
BURIED IN THE complex Senate compromise on detainee
treatment is a real shocker, reaching far beyond
the legal struggles about foreign terrorist suspects
in the Guantanamo Bay fortress. The compromise
legislation, which is racing toward the White House,
authorizes the president to seize American citizens
as enemy combatants, even if they have never left
the United States. And once thrown into military
prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers
or any other of the normal protections of the Bill
Gonzales argues “federal judges should not substitute
their personal views for the president's judgments in wartime.” This
is insane and worse than hypocritical! Was it not the personal
views of the Supreme Court justices that made Bush president
in the first place? Now he says they have no right
to pass judgment on the constitutionality of his policies!
War is no excuse for abandoning the Constitution, especially
if the President’s judgment has proven to be flawed
What can American citizens do about the
destruction of our moral image? How can the United States
recover its status as an advocate for human rights? This
is a critical time that will impact our identity and our
security for the future. The only possible way to reverse
the direction in which the Bush administration is forcing
us, is to empower the opposition in congress so that the
constitutional check on domination by one branch of government
It is said that in a democracy, citizens
get the leaders they deserve. Only a change in awareness
by the electorate can restore our national integrity. If
we in fact deserve leaders who are better than those we have,
then we either do not live in a democracy or we have let
the minority suppress the conscience and will of the majority.
The Democratic Party’s slogan, “Take Back America” must
now be considered in its literal rather than in its partisan
sense. A democracy that has no debate, and no checks on absolute
and arbitrary power, is no democracy.
The America I believe in doesen't torture people.
The America I believe in doesen't run secret prisons.
The America I believe in leads the world on human rights.
Stand up for the
America you believe in: Sign the Pledge
2006 Richard Sidy