Posted on 14-02-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

The maxim above is one that the American devotees of torture often forget.  This article by Glenn Greenwald is worth reading because it captures right wing hypocrisy on torture and prisoner conditions when Americans or co-religionists are involved.  Greenwald’s column was triggered by recent hand-wringing from usual torture supporters at the plight of the American Baptists arrested in Haiti for smuggling children out of Haiti.  It also gave him the opportunity to revisit this article from 2006 where Michelle Malkin fretted about the quality of legal protections awarded to alleged (Christian) terrorists in Indonesia.

This double standard was of course predictable.  The uniformed military many former officers (including then Secretary of State Colin Powell and Arizona Senator John McCain) and many JAG officers (including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a former JAG officer) opposed the Bush administration’s eagerness to torture (somehow magically transformed by calling it enhanced interrogation) for exactly such reasons.  Once America tortures it does not have much standing to grouse about similar treatment to its own citizens and soldiers.  When America uses fear to toss away the rule of law and the right to a fair trial it is much harder to claim such rights for its citizens, let alone sermonize about the denial of rights to others.

What the torture loving elements of the right also fail to appreciate is that when America eschews torture, it can actually enhance security.  While Republicans have been up in arms lately that the Obama administration did not torture the underpants bomber, they ignore the point raised by Fareed Zakaria in his recent column.  See link.  The underpants bomber and the five American Muslims arrested in Pakistan when they went for jihad training were turned in by their parents.  Zakaria is right to observe that this would not happen if the parents felt that he would be tortured, and while the example of Chechen parents not turning their kids in to Putin’s thugs is a bit extreme it is on point.

So basically the American security hawks want the right to torture or deny trial to terrorist suspects (my guess is that given how the right reacted to the FBI raid at Ruby Ridge in the 1990s we are talking about Muslim suspects here) in the interest of national security, but such deviations from the rule of law are not permitted elsewhere (particularly against Christian suspects).  It is hypocrisy at its rankest.

One of my complaints about the American legal response to 9/11 was the failure to evaluate how other countries handled similar (and often far more severe and pervasive) terrorism threats and the failure to set up mechanisms to limit the inevitable abuse of power from draconian anti-terror statutes.  It was also unfortunately not the first time in American history fear became a mechanism to subvert the rule of law and American values.

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It has become a predictable pattern ever since Pervez Musharraf as chief of the Pakistani army instigated the the Kargil War.  Barely a week after the announcement that India and Pakistan would resume the talks that were put on hold after the Mumbai attacks, comes a bomb attack.  See link.  This time the target is the city of Pune.  As in Mumbai, the target of the attacks was a location where foreigners congregated.  Even though the perpetrators have not been identified, the site of the attack was surveyed by David Headley, the Chicago man of Pakistani origin who is being investigated for his connection with Mumbai attacks.  See link.

The attacks promptly brought calls to suspend talks with Pakistan, which the Indian government has said will continue.  Personally, I see the talks as a charade played out for public (particularly Western) consumption.  President Zardari’s government simply does not have the power to make the compromises necessary for a lasting peace treaty and does not control the Pakistani security establishment.  Islamabad still tries to distinguish the jihadi movement in Afghanistan from the proxies launched against India.  India is never going to accede to a demand to sever Kashmir from the Union of India, at best the Kashmiris on the Indian side of the LOC can look forward to a type of enhanced autonomy (which should probably be extended to the other states of India).  If Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at the height of his power did not have the ability to recognize the LOC as the international border with India (when he signed the Simla Accord), his widely despised son in law (Asif Zardari) who genuinely seems to want peace with India will not be able to do so either.

So the impasse will continue.  A few months from now Pakistan will complain the Indians are not serious about negotiations.  India will respond that the jihadi network still flourishes in Pakistan.  A terrorist strike that tests India’s patience will occur.  Pakistan will make some token arrests and bans to deflect attention.  One difference from the Musharraf years is that Pakistan stands alone and bereft of world sympathy as a result of its role in midwifing global terrorism.  As the Indian economy grows stronger and as Pakistan crumbles the balance of power is inexorably tilting in New Delhi’s favor.

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