The Torture Treaty

Is President Obama guilty of a crime against humanity? No, not because he wants to let tax cuts for the wealthy expire. The United States happens to be signatory to a treaty that requires “competent authorities [to] proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.” (I hasten to add that the treaty was promoted and signed by Ronald Reagan). Torture, according to the treaty, “means 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…when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.” In addition, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” The treaty doesn’t exempt people who committed these acts after their lawyers redefined them as not being torture, or who claimed they were only following orders, or who acted out of a sincere belief that they were performing a higher good. When conservatives start clamoring for the prosecution of those complicit in torture, it might be possible to listen to their wailings about the dangers to liberty currently threatening the Republic.

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