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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