Friday, January 21, 2005

US Government Supports Torturing US Soldiers

Slate writes about a new angle to our government's pro-torture policy.

Some United States POWs of the first Gulf War sued Saddam Hussein for torturing them while they were in Iraqi custody. And won! Now the US government has blocked that ruling completely without merit. It's hard not to see why - we don't want to get sued by the people we're torturing now. And at whose expense? The poor suffering POWs who served their country in good faith. Support the troops, indeed.

Yet when 17 of our tortured Gulf War POWs and 37 of their family members said "enough" and joined together to bring a historic civil action to hold their Iraqi torturers liable, they were shocked—having won their case in federal court—to find the Department of Justice seeking to erase their judgment and "absolve" their torturers.

Sadly, along came the Abu Ghraib scandal, setting aside this historic tradition and the professional judgment of our military JAG officers and State Department experts. As is now well known, one effect of the abuse scandal was to undermine deterrence against the torture of American POWs in future wars (this, along with its catastrophic political cost to the Iraq war effort and, more broadly, to our nation's reputation). But, in a perfect storm of bad news for future American POWs, while the now infamous abuse decisions were still policy, the Justice Department went into court to erase the POWs' judgment and its message of liability for torture. Judge Roberts dismissed the government effort as "without merit," but, on appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia set aside the judgment on a technical issue neither raised nor briefed by the parties. Even the infamous Korematsu decision in World War II, legalizing the shameful incarceration of Japanese Americans, was not reached by simply ignoring the law and pleadings in its zealous support for a wartime executive branch—as did the Court of Appeals here.

Now that's some activist judging that BushCo can get behind!

It is wrong to seek to pay for the reconstruction of Iraq on the backs of American POWs brutally tortured by Iraq. It is wrong to place our nation in violation of the important POW convention, and it is wrong to interpret away the intent of Congress in adding a crucial new tool in the war on terror: that of threats of substantial judgments against terror states. Most of all, however, it is an abomination to treat real American heroes, who have given so much for their nation, with the disdain the government has shown in this case.

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