In the February 27 issue of The New Yorker, Jane Mayer reported on the efforts of Alberto Mora, outgoing general counsel for the US Navy, to stop the Pentagon from authorizing the use of cruel and unusual punishment beginning three years ago.
In the article, Mora describes with chilling detail a meeting with top administration and military officials to discuss whether to “[make] it official Pentagon policy to treat detainees in accordance with Common Article Three of the Geneva conventions, which bars cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, as well as outrages against human dignity.”
Mora noted the giant pink elephant in the room, saying, “… it’s a statute. It exists–we’re not free to disregard it. We’re bound by it. It’s been adopted by the Congress. And we’re not the only interpreters of it. Other nations could have US officials arrested.”
Nevertheless, this proposal to officially adhere to the Geneva Convention was rejected.
On March 2, Ray McGovern, 27-year veteran of the CIA, joined 15 other activists to walk the halls of Congress. They wore orange jumpsuits similar to those of detainees at Guantanamo, with gags over their mouths that displayed the single word “torture.”
McGovern also returned his Intelligence Commendation Award for “especially commendable service,” delivering it along with a letter to Rep. Pete Hoekstra, Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
In the letter, McGovern states simply, “I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.”
On March 4, truthout.org posted a letter to President Bush from Joseph W. DuRocher, former officer and helicopter pilot in the US Navy. Enclosed with the letter was DuRocher’s Naval Aviator wings.
In the letter, DuRocher, a lawyer, explains, “Until your administration, I thought it was impossible for our nation to take hundreds of persons into custody without provable charges…and to ‘disappear’ them into holes like Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram….in my wildest legal fantasy I could not imagine a US Attorney General seeking to justify torture or a President first stating his intent to veto an anti-torture law, and then adding a ‘signing statement’ that he intends to ignore such law as he sees fit. I do not want these things done in my name.”
Finally, two weeks ago, The Telegraph UK reported that Ben Griffin, an elite SAS soldier with eight years of distinguished service in the counter-terrorist unit, has refused to continue fighting in Iraq due to “illegal tactics of United States troops and the policies of coalition forces.”
Griffin’s mission was to work with the American Delta Force in targeting Al Qaeda cells and insurgents. He had served previously in Afghanistan but described his 3-month tour in Baghdad this way: “The Americans had this catch-all approach to lifting suspects.…[They] were doing things like chucking farmers into Abu Ghraib or handing them over to the Iraqi authorities, knowing full well they were going to be tortured…You cannot invade a country pretending to promote democracy and behave like that.”
These four men have demonstrated great bravery and personal sacrifice in responding to the perpetration of torture. If we are to end this affront to our basic standards on human rights, we will all need to follow their lead in speaking out powerfully right now. The simple and hard truth is this: we are committing torture, and we are doing so with the approval of the very highest levels of our government.