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A bumper sticker from around 2008 offered a stinging, four-word response to the Bush-Cheney regime’s enthusiasm for the cruel sport of waterboarding: “Impeach Bush,” it urged, “Torture Cheney.”
This comes up again, because there’s a new push – ironically coming from the Obama White House – to revive torture as an acceptable practice by the CIA and others for their interrogation of terrorist suspects. The irony is that, on this issue, Obama himself has taken a firm stand. As a US senator in 2005, he strongly supported a bill by GOP Sen. John McCain to prohibit American officials from engaging in cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees – not just on US soil, but anywhere in the world. Then, in 2009, on his second day as President, Obama proudly signed an executive order banning torture.
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Good. Well done. Solid. But a covey of military and spy agency lawyers are suddenly pushing the administration to embrace a loophole that Bush created after Congress passed the McCain bill. Goaded by his snarling, autocratic vice president, George W claimed that as commander in chief, he could override the torture ban if the cruelty took place in detention camps and other facilities on foreign soil.
Even though Obama’s 2009 executive order directly refuted the Bush “overseas” loophole, hawkish forces now want the White House to refute its own refutation, giving torture wiggle room and new life in US foreign policy. Unfortunately, the Obamacans are wobbling, with some aides calling this change a “technical” issue. Hardly! A ban is a ban, not a matter of fleeting policy, but of settled moral principle – a statement to the world of who we Americans are.
Call the White House comment line to tell Obama to stick to moral principle over the imagined convenience of torture tactics: 202-456-1111.
“Close the Overseas Torture Loophole,” The New York Times, October 21, 2014.
“Obama Could Reaffirm A Bush-Era Reading Of a Treaty on Torture,” The New York Times, October 19, 2014.