Washington’s False Logic of Torture

Logic is a process whereby one makes an argument based on a premise. If the premise is false, the process of logic can still prove it, albeit possibly not as easily or convincingly as a true premise. Law follows the process of logic in deciding human guilt or innocence. However, law has fewer false premises since most laws and their application are based on previous experiences with said law.
As Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights makes clear in his book The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld, the legal rationalization for the US torture of its prisoners is based on a false premise. In addition, the argument used to legitimize the premise is poorly made and ultimately wrong and illegal. Yet, dozens, if not hundreds, of human beings have been tortured using this false and illegal premise.

To counter this illegal and false logic, Mr. Ratner and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights wrote a book presenting their legal case against several individuals in the Bush administration for their implementation and sanctioning of torture. The case presented in the The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld is straightforward and reasoned and based on decades of accepted universal practices and understanding of the definition of war crimes. It is also the basis for the case made by Ratner and others in the German courts in 2006. Unfortunately, in what most assuredly was a political decision, the German government prosecutor refused to pursue the case.

So, Ratner and the New Press have decided to present it to those interested enough to read his book. One hopes, of course, that the existence of the book will inspire other prosecutors that care about human rights and their abuse to consider prosecuting those indicted in the text, as well as Messrs. Bush and Cheney who, because they are still in office, are only named as unindicted co-conspirators here.

The book reads exactly like a trial, with a opening statements and rebuttals, a presentation of evidence, and closing statements. One imagines that any trial that might actually take place of the defendants herein would be considerably longer. I say that because the evidence presented here is but the tip of the iceberg. Given that, it is enough to demand a greater investigation by some prosecutorial agency somewhere on the planet. It is unlikely that the US will prosecute, despite recent rumors that an Obama administration would consider such a possibility (since denied). Why do I say this? Primarily because I expect Bush to pardon everyone in his administrations that he can. Naturally, the most obvious court for such a prosecution would be the International War Crimes Court in the Hague, but barring that possibility (primarily because of the court’s apparent inability to prosecute anyone other than those the US and its cohorts have defeated), any foreign government would serve equally well. If nothing else, it would be some kind of justice if the indictees listed in this book and their co-conspirators were unable to travel outside of the United States because they feared arrest.

If one is interested in the total failure of the law in preventing acts which are considered illegal by virtually every international agency and earthly government, then Ratner’s book is a must read. This rings especially true as we mark the seventh anniversary of the tragedy of 9-11. The freedom to torture is not a freedom worth defending. In fact, it could very well be a freedom that, when practiced, will invite another attack. Even if Bush and Company are never prosecuted, the ignominy of their crimes against humanity must never be forgotten. Let’s also hope that future administrations do not repeat them.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

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  1. Lloyd Rowsey said on September 22nd, 2008 at 12:37pm #

    I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m changing the subject. On page 220 of Ignacio Ramonet’s Fidel Castro: My Life: A Spoken Autobiography, Ramonet asks Castro: When the (revolutionary) war ended, you and your followers had promised to bring to trial and eventually put to death members of Batista’s repressive forces, and you created the “revolutionary tribunals” that carried out a purge that many observers characterized as excessive….Do you think that that was a mistake?

    In reply, Castro said in part: “I think the error may have been in…allowing the proceedings to be attended by a great number of our countrymen who were justly outraged by the thousands of crimes that had been committed….I’d been in Venezuela….and….When Machado fell in 1933, Machado’s people were dragged through the streets; there were lynchings, houses were invaded (etc, etc)….we would tell our people that our Movement did not want to see people dragged through the streets, or personal vengeance, because justice would be done. We were still very much influenced by the Nuremberg trials, which had taken place just some twelve years earlier, at the end of the Second World War.” (Italics mine.)

    I also hope this doesn’t sound like another “left-winger” airing out his pet peeve now that Bushco has decided the internet is safe enough for “free speech” – and just (peaceful) protesters, at least if in the streets, will be arrested and persecuted under the full cover of silence in the national media.

    Considering the embargo of Cuba could be ended with the stroke of a pen – and wouldn’t require bringing many tens of thousands of troops home, the embargo in my opinion is more immoral than the Iraq War.