This afternoon (June 5th) the Los Angeles Times reported that the Pentagon's new field manual on detainee handling will not include the Geneva Convention language banning "degrading and humiliating" treatement. Not only would this ignore the rules of the Geneva Convention, but it also disregards legislation recently passed in the Congress (an amendment by Senator McCain).
The following is an editorial that Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice, a Bay Area interfaith peace organization, is sending to local newspapers.
Multifaith Voices For Peace and Justice Joins a National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Imagine if one of your children, your husband or wife, your mother or father, sister or brother were dragged from your home in the dark of night, or snatched from the streets in the light of day, a hood placed over the head, flown to a far-off land, body stripped naked and thrown on the concrete floor of a bare cell. Day after day, loud music, bright lights, snarling dogs and endless interrogations make sleep impossible and waking hours a living hell. Temperatures alternate between hellish heat and freezing cold. Imagine his head held under a soaking towel, water poured over the towel and dripping into the covered nose and mouth, so much water seeping through until it felt like drowning. Imagine one day they remove the hood, so she can witness what appears to be the gang rape of another detainee. Later, a female guard walks into the cell, removes the hood again. The guard puts her hand into her own pants, pulls her hand out and smears what feels and smells like menstrual blood on the prisoner's face. Imagine your loved one sobbing alone in that cell, no idea if or when this ordeal will end, no idea if anyone outside the walls of this prison knows she is even alive. Weeks, months, even years go by, endless interrogation yielding nothing for there is nothing to yield, despite shackled hands and feet, a body chained in excruciating positions for hours at a time, skin smeared with excrement. Dignity and human kindness are mere memories of the past.
Though we can not imagine many people in our community supporting such treatment, the President of the United States and his administration have approved each and every one of those acts as acceptable interrogation techniques. Even after Congress recently passed legislation banning such behavior, President Bush issued a carefully worded signing statement (commentary) indicating that he believes that as Commander in Chief, he is not constitutionally bound by that legislation.
As people of faith, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Unitarian Universalists, we are called to love every child, every human being who is part of God's holy creation. When any person is treated in a cruel, inhumane, or degrading way, it is as though such treatment were rendered against all of humanity. Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice, a Bay Area interfaith peace organization, has joined with religious leaders across the United States to declare a National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
The declaration states that torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dear. It degrades everyone involved policy makers, perpetrators, and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.
In joining this National Religious Campaign Against Torture, we urge the president to obey the will of Congress and the people of the United States. Specifically, we urge President Bush to remove all ambiguities by prohibiting:
* Exemptions from the human rights standards established by Congress or by treaty through international law for any arm of our government;
* The practice of extraordinary rendition, whereby suspects are apprehended and flown to countries that use torture as a means of interrogation;
* Any disconnection of "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" from the ban against "torture;"
* The existence of secret U.S. prisons around the world; and
Any denial of Red Cross access to detainees held by our government overseas.
We also call for an independent investigation of the severe human rights abuses at U.S. installations like Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.
It saddens us that we even need to issue a declaration of this nature, to our own government here in the United States. Yet we must. Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the very soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed?
Let America abolish torture now without exceptions.
ABOUT MULTIFAITH VOICES FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE
Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice is a Bay Area interfaith peace organization that comes together from more than 36 diverse faith communities and traditions to put our convictions into action by saying NO to war and YES to peace and justice.
For more information, including comprehensive documentation of current U.S. policies on torture, please visit www.multifaithpeace.org
ABOUT THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS CAMPAIGN AGAINST TORTURE
As men and women of faith and conscience, we are joined together on a non-partisan basis in profound opposition to torture and cruel and inhuman practices by anyone for any purpose. As United States-based organizations, we feel particular responsibility for the abusive practices being utilized by the United States government today. The United States has historically been a leader in outlawing these practices. The ever-increasing evidence, however, makes it all too clear that current grim abuses are not isolated incidents, but rather constitute a widespread pattern.
Although our beliefs are rooted in many different religions, and although we worship in different ways and in different languages, we stand firmly united and unswerving on this crucial moral issue. Together we will work for the immediate cessation of torture by the United States, whether direct or by proxy, within our territory or abroad. We reject all proffered justifications and distorted definitions. Our condemnation of torture is not based on any political opinion or on the laws or treaties of any nations. Rather, we are guided by a higher law that serves as a compass for all of humanity. Further information can be found at Web Link