Thursday, June 22, 2006

Universal values

The grisly reports have been building up over the past few days. Iraqi officials and an Al Qaida website have added their confirmation. As was implied in earlier reports, I think it's safe to say that the two US soldiers found dead recently were in fact tortured to death.

The photograph below is Mario Vasquez uncle of Army Pfc. Kristian Manchaca. He holds up a photo of Kristian, right, with a soldier from his platoon. I wanted to post it because I can't put into words the look on his face. The incredible sadness. It must be the most terrible burden to know that, not only is your loved one gone, but that they left in such a painful and dehumanising manner.

I'm used to looking at pictures of grieving Iraqis and Afghans, but truly, no matter who you are or where you're from, you love your family and grieve for them in exactly the same way. I couldn't help but be reminded of a similar photo of Dilawar's father. Instead of holding a photo, Dilawar's father held his grandchild, a living memory of his lost son. He's turned away from the camera but the face is the same. Or Kurnaz's mother. That same grim, sad look is on her face, the knowledge that her son has been tortured.

I started this blog with the idea that opposition to torture is a universal value, but really, it is the grief and suffering that is universal. It's almost a cliche, but it bears repeating: underneath, we're all humans, and we all feel pain the same way. It is our understanding of this that allows humans to be loving and compassionate, and it is that compassion that helps us choose moral behaviour. Our understanding of pain teaches us how to love.

As we share the soldiers' families' grief, we will remember why we are anti-torture. We would never want to inflict this pain on anyone, not even our worst enemy, and much less on innocent men.

UPDATE: Turkish Delight, a soldier's wife, shares her thoughts on the recent deaths.


Support for Durbin amendment #4341 to Defense authorization bill (S. 2766) "No Rendition to Torture" amendment

In the comments I've put a sample letter to use to draft a fax to your Senators to urge them to support this amendment against rendition. We do not know the exact timing of the vote, but it could be soon so it is critical to make your voice heard today, by fax or phone (via No2Torture email group).


Blogger elendil said...

Dear Senator:

We urge you to vote in favor of the Durbin Amendment #4341, a mechanism to prohibit extraordinary rendition of detainees to countries likely to practice torture. Torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment must never be permitted under U.S. policy, under any circumstances. The practice of U.S. delivery of a prisoner under the protection of diplomatic assurances that the receiving country will not torture must be monitored by our government to ensure that the U.S. is not unwittingly complicit in the practice of torture by other countries. As Senator McCain and Senator Dodd have eloquently reminded us all, this principle arises from our knowledge of ourselves as a country that is grounded in the rule of law.

Sen. Durbin's amendment has two parts. First, it would reaffirm the legal prohibition on sending an individual to a country where it is likely that he or she will be tortured. Second, it would require the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and other relevant officials, to certify to Congress that a country which has given diplomatic assurance that it will not torture an individual has, in fact, complied with that promise. If the Secretary of State is unable to verify that a particular country is complying with its assurances, the United States would be prohibited from transferring anyone else to that country.

Sen. Durbin's amendment would not prohibit the use of diplomatic assurances as the basis for renditions. Rather, it would provide that such assurances satisfy our national treaty obligations when coupled with a required procedure to ensure compliance with the diplomatic assurances concerning the treatment of an individual detainee.

Religious leaders from across the spectrum of belief systems have proclaimed as recently as last week, in an ad in the New York Times, that every human being has dignity and worth, and that no human being should ever be tortured or treated in a cruel, inhuman or degrading manner. Torture under any circumstances violates our nation's most cherished values. Sen. Durbin's amendment is a modest step to ensuring that those values are protected by U.S. policy concerning rendition.

Yours truly,

6:03 PM  
Blogger Cyberotter said...

An Army soldier rationalizes torture to me.


8:21 AM  
Blogger Dr. Strangelove said...

I will be attending the teach-in in Washington DC this Sunday. I encourage everyone in the DC area to attend. Info for the teach-in is at the Torture Awareness Month website and I have a post on it at my blog. Hope to see some of you there.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Nell said...

I think it's safe to say that the two US soldiers found dead recently were in fact tortured to death.

I don't. Here is a news story from June 28:

The general [Maj. Gen. James Thurman, who commands U.S. operations in and around Baghdad] said investigators are still piecing together what happened on June 16. He declined to say why three junior-rank soldiers were left alone, in one armored Humvee, to man a checkpoint in one of Iraq's most violent neighborhoods.

He also did not reveal whether the soldiers were killed at the scene and their bodies mutilated or whether they were tortured to death, as an Iraq general has said.

"That's why we're investigating it," Gen. Thurman said. "We go through intensive efforts to look at DNA, to look at autopsies and things like that to make sure that we can determine the cause of death and that sort of business."

The bodies were booby-trapped with IEDs, and the implication is that they were prevented from exploding. Otherwise it would be almost impossible to reconstruct the sequence of events. I am not going to assume anything until we know more.

7:23 AM  

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