Monday, December 29, 2008

Hypocritical Torture

Hypocrisy does not sit well with me, and I'd just like to bring your attention to a case that I'd like to see bite the Defense Department in the ass. We all know that during this misguided "War on Terror" that the US military has tortured prisoners. Even Dick Cheney thinks waterboarding is a "no brainer."

With that in mind, prosecutors are currently seeking a 147-tear prison term for Charles Emmanuel for--wait for it--torture.

MIAMI -- U.S. prosecutors want a Miami judge to sentence the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 147 years in prison for torturing people when he was chief of a brutal paramilitary unit during his father's reign.

Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Charles "Chuckie" Taylor Jr. is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 9 by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga. His conviction was the first use of a 1994 law allowing prosecution in the U.S. for acts of torture committed overseas.

A recent Justice Department court filing describes torture -- which the U.S. has been accused of in the war on terror -- as a "flagrant and pernicious abuse of power and authority" that warrants severe punishment of Mr. Taylor.

"It undermines respect for and trust in authority, government and a rule of law," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Heck Miller in last week's filing. "The gravity of the offense of torture is beyond dispute."


Mr. Emmanuel, a U.S. citizen born in Boston, was head of the Antiterrorist Unit in Liberia from 1997 to 2003, when his father left power. Trial testimony described the ATU, also known as the "Demon Forces," as an elite battalion used to silence opponents of the president, train fighters for other African conflicts and conduct brutal interrogations of prisoners.

Witnesses described horrific torture techniques involving electric shocks, molten plastic, lit cigarettes, hot clothes irons, bayonets and even biting ants shoveled onto people's bodies. Prisoners were often kept in water-filled pits covered by heavy iron grates and barbed wire.

Mr. Emmanuel had argued in previous court papers that he was being unfairly prosecuted for acts similar to those committed by U.S. personnel in Iraq and elsewhere.

The administration of President George W. Bush has been criticized by some around the world and in Congress for using aggressive interrogation techniques. Justice Department memos were seen as providing legal underpinnings for some of the techniques.

However, administration officials have blamed abuses at places such as Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison on a small number of soldiers or agents and insisted there has been no systematic mistreatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan or the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The issue as I see it: Emmanuel, a US citizen, tortures other people, and the justice system is trying to sentence him to (effectively) life in prison. From the description of the torture above, I'm certain that Emmanuel was helped in his endeavors, maybe by a small number of soldiers or agents.

The Bush Administration has engaged in torture. It conveniently calls these incidents "harsh interrogation techniques." The hypocrisy is that although we have evidence that the White House approved torture (such as waterboarding), the only people who will be punished will the soliders who followed orders, and not, as in the case of Emmanuel, the person giving the orders. It is entirely unfair that the US will prosecute people who commit torture elsewhere, but not our own citizens.

A few acquaintances wonder how I can have so little faith in President Bush and his administration. (This usually crops up when I say that I believe that Bush et al knew 9/11 was coming and let it happen to build political capital.) As Caroline Heck Miller says (see above), this issue has undermined my trust and respect for the government.

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