Dishonoring Reagan

April 27, 2009

The most damning argument yet against Bush torture apologists:

The UN Convention on Torture, which Ronald Reagan signed and championed, is very clear and its definition of what torture is obviously broad and inclusive. There’s actually a good discussion of it at Hot Air, which reproduces the legal definition thus:

Article 1.
1. For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2.
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

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3 Responses to “Dishonoring Reagan”

  1. CK MacLeod Says:

    I remain amused that, following Andrew Sullivan’s lead, so many are seizing upon my citation of the UN Convention language, including the portions I highlighted. As preserved above, Sullivan even spoke approvingly of the “discussion at HotAir” that I started, without seeming to notice that I highlighted those sentences for the purpose of faulting our short-sighted and dishonest acceptance of the vague and ambiguous pseudo-definition connected to an all-encompassing commitment. It is a model of moral posturing on the international level, but answers little. Even Ronald Reagan, believe it or not, made mistakes.

  2. maristi Says:

    Noted. But smells like a false choice.

    The language is bad, perhaps the treaty. Check.

    Reagan could and did make mistakes. Check.

    It’s a commitment, an obligation we’ve entered into. And we must abide. Otherwise we are telling China and everyone else they can walk right over theirs. A true moral test at a trying time. Check.

  3. CK MacLeod Says:

    I’d say that it was a commitment, if interpreted broadly, we never could have abided by, have contradicted and evaded in a thousand ways, beginning before the proverbial ink was dry. If interpreted narrowly, then we’ve never broken it.

    “Severe” and “pain” and “severe pain” are in the eye of the beholder: Is imprisonment severely painful? If not, then is waterboarding? Or is waterboarding merely painful, but not severely so, just severely fear-inducing or panic-inducing? Maybe it “shocks your conscience.” Maybe it doesn’t shock mine. Maybe it would have shocked it even less so in October of 2001.

    Lacking any way of determining except by political or military convenience how broad a definition to apply, the law should be declared “void for vagueness” and treated as inoperative.


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