Torturegate, G8, and the Greater Middle East
The Wall Street Journal’s revelation of White House counsels’ memoranda permitting what most people would consider torture– on the basis of the president’s position as commander in chief in wartime– is among the most chilling things we have seen from a Bush administration not lacking in chills for civil libertarians. It seems clear from the anger expressed by senators like Joe Biden in the hearings addressed by Attorney General John Ashcroft on Tuesday that they now suspect Bush himself authorized the Abu Ghuraib torture routines. And, they are helpless to do anything about it.
The revelations about the torture memos have cast a cloud over Bush’s presentations at the G8 summit in Georgia. Since the Bush centerpiece at that conference was supposed to be promoting democracy in the Middle East, the Torturegate revelations pointed to US feet of clay. Wire services noted Bush’s complete failure with Middle Eastern leaders at the summit:
“In an effort to demonstrate engagement with Arabs on the issues, Mr Bush invited the leaders of a number of Islamic countries to attend a lunch on Wednesday with G8 leaders, at their own expense. But leaders of some key nations, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco, turned down the invitation, and Qatar was purposely snubbed because of administration anger at al-Jazeera’s coverage of the Iraq war. Ms Rice cited scheduling issues as the reason Morocco and Egypt – one of the effort’s harshest critics – will not appear.”
That sounds pretty sad.
With regard to the memos themselves, As usual, Josh Marshall is on the case. And, Billmon has an amusing treatment of the hypocrisy of Mary L. Walker, the US Air Force general counsel who led the team of lawyers that wrote the torture memos. (She claims to be a Christian. On the other hand, we cynical lefties should remember that it was Christian soldiers who blew the whistle on Abu Ghuraib, out of stricken consciences.)
A Republican Congress is most unlikely to impeach George W. Bush, even if it does become clear that he is the torturer in chief and that Lynddie England is not the mastermind behind Abu Ghuraib. But he could be prosecuted, even after leaving office, for breaking US law against torture.
United States Code Title 18. Section 2340. Definitions
As used in this chapter –
(1) ”torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2) ”severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from –
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
(3) ”United States” includes all areas under the jurisdiction of the United States including any of the places described in sections 5 and 7 of this title and section 46501(2) of title 49.
Section 2340A. Torture
(a) Offense. – Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction. – There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if –
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy. – A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.
As Steve Rendell noted in a piece a couple of years ago,
‘ Citing Title 18, Section 242 of the United States Code, legal writer Karen L. Snell notes (The Recorder, 10/31/01): “The use of pressure tactics, including torture by proxy, not only renders evidence obtained inadmissible in court. It’s also a crime. And it is not just the person who physically or mentally assaults a suspect who is guilty. Any person who aids, abets, counsels or conspires to commit such acts is a criminal.” ‘