Torture Memo–More Bleeding

According to Article 1 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, torture is defined as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed…”

The Office of Legal Counsel, in the US Department of Justice, redefined torture (somewhere between 2002-03) to enable effective conduct of war on terror to equate torture with pain, particularly pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death.”

Now, Prof. Jack Goldsmith, of Harvard Law School, one of the key, but reluctant architects of the “Torture Memo” is arguing in a new book–The Terror Presidency–that this opinion “defined torture far too narrowly” and that he objected to the “extremely broad and unnecessary analysis of the president’s commander in chief power” in the various internal classified and unclassified memos.

In an extensive interview to the New York Times Magazine, Prof. Goldsmith is arguing that President Bush “badly overplayed a winning hand,” and that he “could have achieved all that he (Bush) wanted to achieve, and put it on a firmer foundation, if he had been willing to reach out to other institutions of government.”  Prof. Goldsmith reserves the harshest words for David Addington, who was Vice President Cheney’s legal adviser, describing him as overbearing, zealous, aggressive, and too contemptuous of other branches of the U.S. government.  Prof. Goldsmith estimation is that the United States might have violated various aspects of the Geneva Conventions and the United States Constitution, which forbids torture.

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One Response to “Torture Memo–More Bleeding”

  1. Kristine Resendes Says:

    Do you think that the U.S.’s definition of “torture” also includes “organ failure, impairment of bodily function..” to the brain? If that be the case, the U.S. owes yet another explanation for the damage they have inflicted on its own citizens. Aside from this example, which I see flying under the radar, how can such vagueness really exist in all arenas of public ordinance! That is the wide angle issue: Democracy at its best? Fine, and the rest of the world must not care either? I am sure this can qualify as torture: being desensitized to US Gov. because of what they have been pulling for so long already. Lame joke, but the point was hopefully noted!

    It is not because the U.S. is bad at being vague. They also seem to be well good at not looking for validation from the U.N. I am sure across the cultural spectrum there exist vastly different definitions of torture, I hope the U.S. will be able validate those. *When time appropriate in class could we go over more U.S. relations to the U.N. (in reflection to current views in World Politics.) Such as, how likely the U.S. is to continue with blowing off the U.N. (global efforts) while other agitated actors just sit back? What there are examples of action taken?

    All in all, I’d like to see US response to this with not calling names or bashing the Harvard Professor, but instead EXPLAIN/RESOLVE the question at hand. Even setting my idealism aside, an easy bullshit response to alleviate any negative attention: “We are working on this diligently, but we are accounting for the subjectivity of the matter at hand.” It buys time, appeals with friendliness, and lets them get away with it! I think U.S. needs to be better publicly if not actually.

    I could be over-zealous myself, but bear with me on this subject! Take care!

    -Kristine


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