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Washington’s False Logic of Torture

Logic is a process whereby one makes an argument based on a premise.  If the premise is false, the process of logic can still prove it, albeit possibly not as easily or convincingly as a true premise.  Law follows the process of logic in deciding human guilt or innocence.  However, law has fewer false premises since most laws and their application are based on previous experiences with said law.

As Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights makes clear in his book The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld, the legal rationalization for the US torture of its prisoners is based on a false premise.  In addition, the argument used to legitimize the premise is poorly made and ultimately wrong and illegal.  Yet, dozens, if not hundreds, of human beings have been tortured using this false and illegal premise.

To counter this illegal and false logic, Mr. Ratner and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights wrote a book presenting their legal case against several individuals in the Bush administration for their implementation and sanctioning of torture.  The case presented in the The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld is straightforward and reasoned and based on decades of accepted universal practices and understanding of the definition of war crimes.  It is also the basis for the case made by Ratner and others in the German courts in 2006.  Unfortunately, in what most assuredly was a political decision, the German government prosecutor refused to pursue the case.

So, Ratner and the New Press have decided to present it to those interested enough to read his book.  One hopes, of course, that the existence of the book will inspire other prosecutors that care about human rights and their abuse to consider prosecuting those indicted in the text, as well as Messrs. Bush and Cheney who, because they are still in office, are only named as unindicted co-conspirators here.

The book reads exactly like a trial, with a opening statements and rebuttals, a presentation of evidence, and closing statements.  One imagines that any trial that might actually take place of the defendants herein would be considerably longer.  I say that because the evidence presented here is but the tip of the iceberg.  Given that, it is enough to demand a greater investigation by some prosecutorial agency somewhere on the planet.  It is unlikely that the US will prosecute, despite recent rumors  that an Obama administration would consider such a possibility (since denied).  Why do I say this?  Primarily because I expect Bush to pardon everyone in his administrations that he can.  Naturally, the most obvious court for such a prosecution would be the International War Crimes Court in the Hague, but barring that possibility (primarily because of the court’s apparent inability to prosecute anyone other than those the US and its cohorts have defeated), any foreign government would serve equally well.  If nothing else, it would be some kind of justice if the indictees listed in this book and their co-conspirators were unable to travel outside of the United States because they feared arrest.

If one is interested in the total failure of the law in preventing acts which are considered illegal by virtually every international agency and earthly government, then Ratner’s book is a must read.  This rings especially true as we mark the seventh anniversary of the tragedy of 9-11.   The freedom to torture is not a freedom worth defending.  In fact, it could very well be a freedom that, when practiced, will invite another attack.   Even if Bush and Company are never prosecuted, the ignominy of their crimes against humanity must never be forgotten.  Let’s also hope that future administrations do not repeat them.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net


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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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