Sunday, May 25, 2008

Torture & the U.S. Presidential Race

Scott Horton is deeply involved in a new anti-torture campaign "dedicated to making certain that each presidential candidate makes stopping torture part of their campaign platform" -- and I want to support it. Working with other dedicated anti-torture activists, their initiative announces "No Torture. No Exceptions."
Torture has spread hatred of America, recruited terrorists, and placed our soldiers at risk. It has betrayed our values, damaged our credibility, frayed our alliances, and undermined our ability to promote freedom and democracy.

I've exchanged a few emails with one of the organizers of the campaign. And, of course, I respect Scott Horton tremendously. I can tell you I think these are some of the most dedicated people working the political side of the anti-torture struggle I have spoken with. While this old curmudgeon may have a few cavils about their approach -- hey! let's educate the U.S. population about the long history of American torture, beginning with MKULTRA -- I basically agree with their approach, and the need to construct a broad coalition of anti-torture supporters, showing the U.S. political establishment we are serious about ending this social cancer.

What do these Reject Torture folks want us to do? Well, you could go to their site, which is what I suggest. But the very first thing they want you to do is:
Call each presidential candidate NOW.
INSIST: "No Torture. No Exceptions."

John McCain:
Phone: (202) 224-2235 • Fax: (202) 228-2862

Barack Obama:
Phone: (202) 224-2854 • Fax: (202) 228-4260

Hillary Clinton:
Phone: (202) 224-4451 • Fax: (202) 228-0282

Click here for helpful talking points.
What does "No Torture. No Exceptions" really mean? The website lays out the simple and clear program:
  • reaffirming America's commitment to existing federal laws and international treaties that ban torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under all circumstances.

  • renouncing all legal interpretations and executive orders that redefine torture and permit such acts as sensory and sleep deprivation, stress positions, sexual humiliation, and mock executions.

  • enforcing full transparency of information about how America treats any and all detainees held by our personnel and those in our employ anywhere in the world.

  • rejecting and abolishing the practice of rendering detainees abroad.

  • establishing a single standard of interrogation procedures to apply to all persons held in U.S. custody or by those under U.S. control, whether C.I.A., military, or civilian.

  • treating our detainees as we would have others treat detained Americans.
  • The torture issue has had some small play in the presidential campaign thus far -- most famously when a majority of GOP candidates at an early debate stood up to defend torture, with the hapless Mitt Romney explaining that not only would he not close the Guantanamo torture gulag, he would double its size.

    The Democrats have been a bit more circumspect. And while, for instance, Barack Obama has spoken out explicitly upon changing U.S. policy, there is nothing about either torture or any detainee issue (such as the suppression of habeas corpus) at his official Obama '08 website. The same goes for Clinton at her campaign website. This circumspection is not an oversight, but a capitulation to the "war on terror"/"homeland security" drumbeats of the military/intelligence apparatus that dictates what classifies as an "issue" in America (parroted by the subservient and purchased press). aims to put U.S. use of torture at the front of Democratic Party campaign politics, "by persuading the Republican and the Democratic Parties at their national conventions to include in their Party platforms a plank that fully rejects the use of torture by United States forces and those in their employ." It's a noble endeavor, and while I remain pessimistic that the current political environment and the mainstream political parties are ready to take on decades of subservience to the military-industrial-intelligence state, we lose nothing in making the effort. Furthermore, we gain by getting the issue larger exposure.

    Go to and support their campaign. Call the presidential candidates today. And tell your friends. Pass the word.

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