Vice President for Torture
Washington Post Editorial
Post" -- -- VICE PRESIDENT Cheney is
aggressively pursuing an initiative that may be unprecedented for an
elected official of the executive branch: He is proposing that
Congress legally authorize human rights abuses by Americans. "Cruel,
inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners is banned by an
international treaty negotiated by the Reagan administration and
ratified by the United States. The State Department annually issues
a report criticizing other governments for violating it. Now Mr.
Cheney is asking Congress to approve legal language that would allow
the CIA to commit such abuses against foreign prisoners it is
holding abroad. In other words, this vice president has become an
open advocate of torture.
His position is not just some abstract defense of presidential
power. The CIA is holding an unknown number of prisoners in secret
detention centers abroad. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, it
has refused to register those detainees with the International Red
Cross or to allow visits by its inspectors. Its prisoners have
"disappeared," like the victims of some dictatorships. The Justice
Department and the White House are known to have approved harsh
interrogation techniques for some of these people, including "waterboarding,"
or simulated drowning; mock execution; and the deliberate
withholding of pain medication. CIA personnel have been implicated
in the deaths during interrogation of at least four Afghan and Iraqi
detainees. Official investigations have indicated that some aberrant
practices by Army personnel in Iraq originated with the CIA. Yet no
CIA personnel have been held accountable for this record, and there
has never been a public report on the agency's performance.
It's not surprising that Mr. Cheney would be at the forefront of an
attempt to ratify and legalize this shameful record. The vice
president has been a prime mover behind the Bush administration's
decision to violate the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention
Against Torture and to break with decades of past practice by the
U.S. military. These decisions at the top have led to hundreds of
documented cases of abuse, torture and homicide in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Mr. Cheney's counsel, David S. Addington, was
reportedly one of the principal authors of a legal memo justifying
the torture of suspects. This summer Mr. Cheney told several
Republican senators that President Bush would veto the annual
defense spending bill if it contained language prohibiting the use
of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel.
The senators ignored Mr. Cheney's threats, and the amendment,
sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), passed this month by a vote
of 90 to 9. So now Mr. Cheney is trying to persuade members of a
House-Senate conference committee to adopt language that would not
just nullify the McCain amendment but would formally adopt cruel,
inhuman and degrading treatment as a legal instrument of U.S.
policy. The Senate's earlier vote suggests that it will not allow
such a betrayal of American values. As for Mr. Cheney: He will be
remembered as the vice president who campaigned for torture.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)