Politics Thursday: Support our Troops by rejecting torture
Note to the American Legion: As long as our Administration refuses to support the troops by heeding their sensible advice on important matters like the one below, I will continue to support them by stating the truth as I see it. Hiding my concerns as you demand will not help our troops. Unlike you, I won't be using whatever means necessary to enforce my views.
Recently some prewar declassified memos have come out showing that our own military was deeply skeptical of the â€œcoercive interrogationâ€? techniques approved by Alberto Gonzales at the White House Office of Legal Council (OLC). Not only that, but they said that the techniques being proposed would generally been seen as violating international and domestic law. Finally they saw these rules as leading directly to harsh treatment of US soldiers worldwide.
The Federation of American Scientists has provided a link to a Congressional Record extract that contains these declassified memos. Here are the memo headers and a few quotes from each of the services (all bolding is mine.) that to me show that our current Administration supports neither human rights nor our own soldiers. Our troops deserved better than what the OLC gave them:
Department of the Navy,
Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps,
Washington, DC, February 27, 2003.
Memorandum for General Counsel of the Air Force
Subject: Working Group Recommendations on Detainee Interrogations
2. The common thread among our recommendations is concern for servicemembers. OLC does not represent the services; thus, understandably, concern for servicemembers is not reflected in their opinion. Notably, their opinion is silent on the UCMJ and foreign views of international law.
3. We nonetheless recommend that the Working Group product accurately portray the services' concerns that the authorization of aggressive counter-resistance techniques by servicemembers will adversely impact the following:
a. Treatment of U.S. Servicemembers by Captors and compliance with International Law.
b. Criminal and Civil Liability of DOD Military and Civilian Personnel in Domestic, Foreign, and International Forums.
c. U.S. and International Public Support and Respect of U.S. Armed Forces.
d. Pride, Discipline, and Self-Respect within the U.S. Armed Forces.
e. Human Intelligence Exploitation and Surrender of Foreign Enemy Forces, and Cooperation and Support of Friendly Nations.
Kevin M. Sandkuhler,
Brigadier General, USMC, Staff Judge Advocate to CMC.
Department of the Army, Office of the Judge Advocate General,
Washington, DC, March 3, 2003.
MEMORANDUM FOR GENERAL COUNSEL OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE
Subject: Draft Report and Recommendations of the Working Group to Access the Legal, Policy and Operational Issues Related to Interrogation of Detainees Held by the U.S. Armed Forces in the War on Terrorism (U)
4. (U) The OLC opinion states further that customary international law cannot bind the U.S. Executive Branch as it is not part of the federal law. As such, any presidential decision made in the context of the ongoing war on terrorism constitutes a ``controlling'' Executive act; one that immediately and automatically displaces any contrary provision of customary international law. This view runs contrary to the historic position taken by the United States Government concerning such laws and, in our opinion, could adversely impact DOD interests worldwide. On the one hand, such a policy will open us to international criticism that the ``U.S. is a law unto itself.'' On the other, implementation of questionable techniques will very likely establish a new baseline for acceptable practice in this area, putting our service personnel at far greater risk and vitiating many of the POW/detainee safeguards the U.S. has worked hard to establish over the past five decades
Thomas J. Romig,
Major General, U.S. Army, The Judge Advocate General.
Department of the Air Force, Office of the Judge Advocate General,
Washington, DC, February 6, 2003.
MEMORANDUM FOR SAF/GC
Subject: Comments on Draft Report and Recommendations of the Working Group to Assess the Legal, Policy and Operational Issues Relating to Interrogation of Detainees Held by the U.S. Armed Forces in the War on Terrorism (U)
(U) Several of the exceptional techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law and the UCMJ (e.g., assault). Applying exceptional techniques places interrogators and the chain of command at risk of criminal accusations domestically. Although one or more of the aforementioned defenses to these accusations may apply, it is impossible to be certain that any of these defenses will be successful as the judiciary may interpret the applicable law differently from the interpretation provided herein.
Jack L. Rives,
Major General, USAF,
Deputy Judge Advocate General.
Department of the Navy, Office of the Judge Advocate General,
Washington, DC, February 6, 2003.
Subj: Working Group recommendations relating to interrogation of detainees.
3. Given this unique set of circumstances, I believe policy considerations continue to loom very large. Should service personnel be conducting the interrogations? How will this affect their treatment when incarcerated abroad and our ability to call others to account for their treatment? More broadly, while we may have found a unique situation in GTMO where the protections of the Geneva Conventions, U.S. statutes, and even the Constitution do not apply, will the American people find we have missed the forest for the trees by condoning practices that, while technically legal, are inconsistent with our most fundamental values? How would such perceptions affect our ability to prosecute the Global War on Terrorism?
4. I accept the premise that this group of detainees is different, and that lawyers should identify legal distinctions where they exist. It must be conceded, however, that we are preparing to treat these detainees very differently than we treat any other group, and differently than we permit our own people to be treated either at home or abroad. At a minimum, I recommend that decision-makers be made fully aware of the very narrow set of circumstances--factually and legally--upon which the policy rests. Moreover, I recommend that we consider asking decision-makers directly: is this the ``right thing'' for U.S. military personnel?
Michael F. Lohr,
Rear Admiral, JAGC, U.S. Navy,
Judge Advocate General.
Notice that the Marines, Army, Air Force, and Navy all agreed that taking this course of action was a very bad idea that would result in damage in our troops, promote an atmosphere of abuse, and drag the name of our great nation through the mud. PLUS, make it more difficult to obtain either surrenders or actionable intelligence. They said these things PRIOR to our misguided, premeditated and optional invasion of Iraq. As it did to many experts, the Administration wouldn't listen to them. We have paid the price. The American people deserve accountability for this betrayal of our troops and fundamental values.