The Guardian 1 August, 2007

Bush gives torture the green light

Rosa Miriam Elizalde

Last year the US Supreme Court ruled that all the foreign prisoners being held in custody by that country should be treated in accord with the Geneva Convention. They in fact prohibited "all cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" — a firm and unequivocal declaration against the horrors of Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail.

However, last week The New York Times broke the news that throws the previous ruling out of the window: George Bush presented an executive order that will allow the CIA to renew the use of some severe methods to obtain information from prisoners in secret jails.

It is known how techniques can be hidden behind the new euphemism used by the White House to avoid using the word "torture" and words like "water boarding", "sleep deprivation", "isolation", "death threats", "the use of dogs", "temperature extremes", "stress positions", etc. Abu Ghraib will not be the loathsome exception, but the rule — aided by the law.

Now it is possible to understand the strange media campaign of a few weeks ago, when the CIA supposedly distanced itself from its terrorist practices of the 1960s. It took its skeletons out of the closet revealing plans to murder heads of state and political leaders to entertain the international public and the fickle US Congress. Then it delivered its right hook to the chin, giving torturers all guarantees to exercise their occupation without fear that in the future their files could be opened and that they would be placed on trial. The mockery concluded.

Betrayal of humanity

This is essentially the betrayal of humanity. If the emperor shamelessly legalises torture, human history will go backward more quickly than we imagined.

Until the 18th century, people lived their lives knowing that they could be tortured at some time during their existence. Torture was considered something normal, more like an accident within the many accidents of life.

This meek acceptance of these horrors gave way with the revolutions at the end of that century. From then on, torture has been seen as what it is: an inadmissible and repugnant cruelty, an aberration contrary to all ideas of civility.

Unfortunately, this didn’t mean that torture ceased to be applied; but it was illegal and condemned by the immense majority of people. In Latin America — more than 30 years after the mass use of torture [was condemned], disappearances and the kidnapping of children still continue to be fought. The condemnation [of torture] had been a very important moral advance, one of the few signs pointing out that progress had been made.

But at this point, where exactly are we?

Acknowledgement to JUVENTUD REBELDE (Rebel Youth).

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