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Have Americans developed a taste for torture?

ASK THIS | February 13, 2006

The author of a new book on torture wonders why public response to an issue that cuts to the very core of America's national identity has been so muted. And he lays out a series of questions for President Bush, congressional candidates and your readers aimed at bearing witness to what may turn out to be a fundamental shift in moral choices by the American public.

By Alfred W. McCoy
(608) 263-1855

Questions for President Bush about Torture:

Q. Are you prepared to instruct the CIA to provide information that will assist the Council of Europe's ongoing investigation into CIA rendition flights and secret prisons?

Q. A Federal judge has considered releasing hundreds of photos and several videotapes of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib beyond the two dozen already broadcast by CBS. Weighing national security versus freedom of the press, do you think that those photos should be released to the press and public?

Q. Are you concerned as Commander-in-Chief that, among the hundreds of service men and women charged with abuse of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq, nobody above the rank of sergeant has been prosecuted?

Questions for Congressional candidates about for Torture:

Q. Do you think that a bipartisan investigation, on the model of the 9/11 Commission, should be formed to examine allegations of detainee abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the International Red Cross's charges of systematic "torture" at Guantanamo?

Q. Do you think that Congress's passage of the "Detainee Treatment Act 2005" goes far enough to prevent future incidents of inhumane treatment and torture?

Q. In medieval Europe, the Inquisition's interrogation manuals called waterboarding "the standard French torture" ("torturae Gallicae Ordinariae"). Do you feel that the CIA or other U.S. agencies should be allowed to use torture techniques like waterboarding?

Q. Last December while Congress was passing the "Detainee Treatment Act 2005" allowing use of coerced testimony at Guantanamo's tribunals and in the U.S. Court of Appeals, the British House of Lords barred all such evidence because torture is "an unqualified evil" that offends the "bedrock moral principle" of British common law. Do you think that Congress should begin from this moral principle in either amending the "Detainee Treatment Act" or considering future legislation?

Q. Do you agree with Vice President Cheney's recommendation that the CIA be given an exemption from U.S. laws and treaties that prohibit inhumane treatment or torture of detainees?

Q. Do you think the benefits of intelligence gained outweigh the cost of damage done to America's international leadership by ongoing treatment of detainees at Guantanamo that the International Red Cross has called "tantamount to torture"?

Q. The United Nations and European Union ban both physical and psychological torture on medical evidence that psychological abuse does more lasting damage to the victims. Do you think that U.S. laws and military regulations governing interrogation should be revised to prohibit all psychological abuse and psychological torture?

Questions for Men and Women on the Street about Torture:

Q. Television dramas like "24" and "NYPD Blue" teach us that the quickest way to get criminals to talk is to rough them up. Do you think roughing up die-hard terrorists in the real War on Terror will produce the same results that cops get in TV shows?

Q. Can you think of any circumstances in which torture might be effective?

Q. Do you think that the Bush administration was justified back in 2001-2002 in allowing abusive interrogation of terror suspects in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo?

Q. Do you think that those photos of abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq damaged America's standing in world?

Q. Do you think Congress's recent ban on torture will end abuse of prisoners by U.S. military and CIA?

How Not to Ban Torture in Congress
McCoy writes in Mother Jones about the depth of damage the war on terror is doing to this country's civil liberties.

A Question of Torture
McCoy's new book on CIA interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror.

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