A Vital Election-year Initiative Against Torture

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Harper's Magazine

A Vital Election-year Initiative Against Torture

by
Scott Horton

This post is about "No Torture. No Exceptions." It's an initiative with which I am deeply involved, dedicated to making certain that each presidential candidate makes stopping torture part of their campaign platform.

In its self-declared war on terror, the Bush Administration overturned an American legacy that stretched back to General Washington's orders at Trenton and Princeton in 1776. The administration repudiated the order that the first and greatest Republican president issued in the heat of the Civil War, in 1863, prohibiting torture and official cruelty. The consequences have been nothing less than disastrous. Americans have been struggling back to regain the nation's legacy of integrity, and the struggle starts within the Party of Lincoln. As the field of contenders narrowed, it surely was not coincidental that the three survivors-McCain, Huckabee and Paul-were united by one point: their rejection of the torture dogma.

The moral issue hovering over the 2008 election is the Bush Administration's embrace of torture as a tool of statecraft. This mistake must be thoroughly repudiated, and the nation must undertake a vow never to repeat it. And this issue should not be allowed to divide the nation as a premise of partisan rancor. There is hope in this election year to reverse one of the most fateful decisions in our nation's history-the decision after 9/11 to disregard America's historic values and to use torture in the "war on terror."

All the remaining Presidential candidates-John McCain in the Republican Party, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party-have publicly stated their opposition to the use of torture. Now each of these presidential candidates must get their parties to adopt at their Conventions a party platform plank that returns America to its historic position of absolutely rejecting torture-anywhere, on anyone, for any reason.

"No Torture. No Exceptions" means:

  • Reaffirming America's commitment to existing federal laws and international treaties that ban torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under all circumstances.
  • Renouncing all legal interpretations and executive orders that redefine torture and permit such acts as sensory or sleep deprivation, stress positions, sexual humiliation, mock executions.
  • Enforcing full transparency of information about how America treats any and all detainees held by our personnel and those in our employ anywhere in the world.
  • Rejecting and abolishing the practice of rendering detainees abroad.
  • Establishing a single standard of interrogation procedures to apply to all persons held in U.S. custody or by those under U.S. control, whether C.I.A., military, or civilian.
  • Treating our detainees as we would have others treat detained Americans.

 

What Would Lincoln Do? "Military necessity does not admit of cruelty, nor of torture." General Orders No. 100, art. 16, Apr. 24, 1863.

What can we do?

  • Click on www.rejecttorture.org to join the national initiative to Reject Torture, and pass it on to your friends and acquaintances
  • Call each and every presidential candidate now. Insist: "No Torture. No Exceptions."

John McCain: Phone: (202) 224-2235 Fax: (202) 228-2862

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

Barack Obama: Phone: (202) 224-2854 Fax: (202) 228-4260

Hillary Clinton: Phone: (202) 224-4451 Fax: (202) 228-0282

Scott Horton, a lawyer and life-long activist, is a contributor to Harper's Magazine and writes No Comment for this website.

© The Harper's Magazine Foundation

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