.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Friday, May 25, 2007

David R. Irvine: the cancer of Abu Ghraib

From a must-read editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune by David Irvine, a retired brigadier general who taught prisoner of war interrogation and military law for 18 years for the Sixth United States Army Intelligence School:

In the three years since the cancerous photographs at Abu Ghraib came to light, the Army's acceptance of and resort to torture have made combat service in Iraq that much more dangerous for our forces there. We cannot claim Geneva Convention protection for our own troops because we have ourselves abandoned the Geneva protection due the Iraqis.

The president and vice president have repeatedly denied that America tortures prisoners, but they choose their words carefully when they refuse to explain or deny the use of "unconventional" interrogation techniques which, by any reasonable definition, amount to torture.

Recently, a group of retired flag officers began quietly meeting with the 2008 presidential candidates in an effort to help the candidates understand the stakes created by America's wrong-headed resort to torture. One well-known candidate stated the dilemma this way: "How can I take an absolute position opposing torture when many people believe that it works and that it's worth it if it prevents another 9/11?"

The response of the generals and admirals was unequivocating: "It [torture] doesn't work, and the belief by a few that it does has cost us the respect of the world and our moral stature as a nation. As president you have to take a clear, no-exceptions stand against torture in any situation, because if you don't, that moral ambiguity will inevitably work its way down the chain of command, and every private will conclude that if the president sees exceptions for ticking time bombs, every improvised explosive device planted along my convoy route is for me a real ticking bomb. Once you open that door by so much as a crack, you have lost the ability to control what your Army will do."

Read the whole piece, it makes a powerful argument against torture. It also serves as a corrective to attempts by the Bush Administration to push the legacy of United States conduct at Abu Ghraib under the carpet. Of particular import is Irvine's relentless focus on how a policy that condones torture impacts our troops.

Irvine, a former general writing in Utah, is making both a pragmatic and a moral argument against torture here. That's significant given Irvine's intended audience in his home state. This op/ed, then, represents an important start point for those committed to building a national legal and policy consensus reversing the Bush Administration's legacy of torture.

Finally, and not least, Irvine notes that a group of "retired flag officers began quietly meeting with the 2008 presidential candidates in an effort to help the candidates understand the stakes created by America's wrong-headed resort to torture." This strikes me a significant and newsworthy in and of itself.

Tags:

1 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home