Law and Ethics for Non-Persons in U.S. Gulag

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Last week the D.C. Court of Appeals threw out a suit by three British former prisoners at Gitmo, and in their ruling legitimated the use of torture at Guantanamo’s Camp Delta, saying that such “seriously criminal” actions by the government was “foreseen”, and that no one could be held responsible for following orders. It also stated that Guantanamo prisoners were not legally “persons.” Could I be making this up?

No chance. Here’s Scott Horton’s take at Harper’s:

Three British detainees held at Gitmo, who were seized for bounty payments for no good reason and who were pried free by the British Government, filed suit alleging that they had been tortured and denied their religious freedom. They sought redress from the authors of the Gitmo system, including former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who crafted a series of once-secret orders directing the Guantánamo torture system. Among the practices introduced and used were waterboarding, hypothermia, long-time standing, sleep deprivation in excess of two days and the use of psychotropic drugs-each of which constitutes torture under American law and under international standards. These orders and their implementation were criminal acts under United States law….

The judges hearing the case, all movement conservative Republicans appointed by a President named Bush- Karen LeCraft Henderson, Janice Rogers Brown and A. Raymond Randolph-concluded that the plaintiffs were not “persons” for purpose of the relevant statute protecting religious freedom. They further concluded that acts of torture and contempt and abuse targeting religious belief were within the legitimate scope of conduct of an American cabinet officer, so that official immunity blocked the suit.

McClatchy news had the story, too:

The court rejected other claims on the grounds that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had certified that the military officials were acting within the scope of their jobs when they authorized the tactics, and that such tactics were “foreseeable.”

   “It was foreseeable that conduct that would ordinarily be indisputably `seriously criminal’ would be implemented by military officials responsible for detaining and interrogating suspected enemy combatants,” Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote in the court’s main opinion.

Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association, which just can’t bring itself to restrict use of its members at Guantanamo, CIA “black site” prisons, and other military hellholes where Bush corrals his victims in the predatory “war on terror” (places like Baghram), has opened up a period of public comment on its policies, with the aim of producing an ethics casebook “on psychological ethics and national security”. Never mind that the latter two terms constitute an oxymoron.

The goal of the casebook/commentary is to provide ethical guidance to psychologists advising or consulting to national security-related interrogations

But there is really no point in constructing casebooks restricting the military and CIA in their use of torture. Nor does it seem the courts can be counted upon to rule against it. As the recent ruling reported above makes clear, instead, the legitimization of human beings into non-persons is well under way. Supposedly “liberal” organizations like APA are anxious to provide ethical cover for atrocities and attacks against freedom. While some of those involved may be well-meaning individuals, the weight of social conformity and institutional identification, not to mention bureaucratic conservatism and narrow-minded guild consciousness, combines to make this call for a casebook something more than insipid. It asks APA critics to take a hand in crafting a policy that will involve them in the interrogation practices of individuals without rights, without oversight, by institutions that have a fifty year policy of researching and conducting torture.

As Chris Floyd noted some time ago:

It is obvious beyond all dispute by now that the Bush Regime will simply ignore any and all attempts to put fetters on its atrocities. They will not stop torturing people. They will not stop kidnapping people and holding them without charges. They will not stop launching mass-murdering wars of aggression. They will not stop perverting the electoral system to keep their extremist fringe views ensconced in power.

The only possible way to stop these criminal depradations is to remove Bush and Cheney from office. Nothing else will do it. And any national political figure or presidential candidate who does not have this removal at the top of their agenda, who is not beating this drum day after day and using all their power and influence and position to help bring it about is, as we have noted here before, nothing but an accomplice to torture and murder.

Also posted at Invictus

10 comments

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    • Valtin on January 16, 2008 at 2:12 am
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    Was going to write more on the APA angle, but haven’t the time.

  1. In this country a zygote is a person and a prisoner is not.

    • OPOL on January 16, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    thank you for this and for all you do to promote sanity and justice.  Your efforts are much appreciated.

  2. A legal (?) decision saying that a person is not a person; did even Orwell go so far? It has been so long since I have read 1984 I can’t remember. Is there any chance that a large enough outcry to the World Court would have any effect? I guess that with France and Germany dropping their charges against Rummy, there isn’t a chance of any support from Europe.

    I think that we all need to examine the possibility of no elections next fall, and the loss of the net as a means of communication. Might I suggest single side band marine radios? An arrow over a high (30′) branch with a wire trailing gives you an antenna: easy up and easy down. Hard to shut down the whole spectrum of frequences available. Sorry to hijack the thread with this last paragraph, but with judges ruling as they have in this case, I can’t see much more than storms ahead in the short (several years) term.

    Send me some tin foil if you want…..just saying…

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