Torture: Yes We Did. No We Didn't. ...Yes You Are

The United Nations has formally rejected the US invitation--extended a few years delayed in repsonse to the request--to visit the Guantanamo Bay detention facility (Gitmo). The UN declined to visit because the US denied private interviews with detainees, allowed a maxium of one day for evaluating the conditions, did not approve two of the four intended examiners, and finally, by inference, did not want to lend the impression of crediblity when they lacked " the ability to make a "credible, objective and fair assessment."

In a statement on Friday, the intended examiners, reflected:

It is particularly disappointing that the United States Government, which has consistently declared its commitment to the principles of independence and objectivity of the fact-finding mechanisms, was not in a position to accept these terms.
Part of me wishes the UN had gone even if the US derived some ill-gotten legitimacy (unlikely), only so the world could catch a glimpse of what there is to see. Although the Red Cross maintains a presence at Gitmo, its access is contingent on secrecy. But then, the worst of the treatment at Gitmo has probably already been shipped-off to the black-sites, secret detentionfacilities for terrorist suspects run by the CIA aboard.

Last month the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained 44 Autopsy reports of homocides of detainees in US custody through the Freedom of Information Act. Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, stated in a press release accompanying the disclosure:
There is no question that U.S. interrogations have resulted in deaths. High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable.
In discussing the issue of torture allegations against the US government as an outsider from the very-insider circle of classified intelligence, the careful commentator will veer away from conclusions where evidence is inconclusive and the stakes are highly politicized. That's what I did a few posts back, in asking the government to dispell ambiguities in its stance on torture and commence with an overt discussion on when, if ever, torture should be permissible.

However true and fair that assertion was though, from the standpoint of a citizen, it is not enugh. Observing the reports delivered by human rights groups, which collect testimonials and medical exams from detainees, and front-page news palpitating with gory accounts of
government-approved interrogation procedures, it makes me wonder if the nation has ever seemed so morally diseased. It is true there have always been rouge generals, stealthy coups, history-altering assassinations, and the institution of slavery still stains us. But the mounting evidence of detainee torture, "disappearing" suspects, and the suppression of basic legal rights describes a systematic effort that directly transgresses (forget Geneva) American law. The Abu Ghraib images that so shocked Americans pale in comparison to the latest testimonies of detainee abuse.

At Reason, Julian Sanchez reminds us that while Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) was vehmently castigated for drawing an
unfavorable comparison between the Soviet gulag and the Gitmo faclities, and forced to apology, current reports
It turn[s] out he'd been more accurate than he realized. As The New York Times revealed earlier this month, Gitmo interrogators had mined the classified "Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape" (SERE) program for techniques. Originally designed to teach soldiers how to resist the kind of spirit-breaking tactics used on prisoners of war by such countries as Vietnam and North Korea, SERE was turned into a manual on those very methods.
It's true the Hussein regime used more cruel and fatal torture devices (see picture right), but American have never held themselves by the standards of the lowest-denominator. (Or rather, one of the lowest, since there are many regimes even more elaborately inhumae than the former-Iraqi.) Here's a long forgotten moment recorded by Forbes that may read like a rosy prediction of the future: "US Acknowledges Torture at Guantanamo; in Iraq, Afghanistan - UN"
Washington has, for the first time, acknowledged to the United Nations that prisoners have been tortured at US detention centres in Guantanamo Bay, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, a UN source said. The acknowledgement was made in a report submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, said a member of the ten-person panel, speaking on on condition of anonymity. 'They are no longer trying to duck this and have respected their obligation to inform the UN,' the Committee member said. 'They they will have to explain themselves (to the Committee). Nothing should be kept in the dark,' he said. UN sources said this is the first time the world body has received such a frank statement on torture from US authorities. The Committee, which monitors respect for the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is gathering information from the US ahead of hearings in May 2006.