Thursday, November 03, 2005

Shameful Treatment of Prisoners by So-called 'Civilized' World SuperPower

Today's blistering editorial in the Washington Post:

"...the CIA maintains its own network of secret prisons, into which 100 or more terrorist suspects have "disappeared" as if they were victims of a Third World dictatorship. Some of the 30 most important prisoners are being held in secret facilities in Eastern European countries -- which should shame democratic governments that only recently dismantled Soviet-era secret police apparatuses. Held in dark underground cells, the prisoners have no legal rights, no visitors from outside the CIA and no checks on their treatment, even by the International Red Cross. President Bush has authorized interrogators to subject these men to "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment that is illegal in the United States and that is banned by a treaty ratified by the Senate. The governments that allow the CIA prisons on their territory violate this international law, if not their own laws.

This shameful situation is the direct result of Mr. Bush's decision in February 2002 to set aside the Geneva Conventions as well as standing U.S. regulations for the handling of detainees. Under the Geneva Conventions, al Qaeda militants could have been denied prisoner-of-war status and held indefinitely; they could have been interrogated and tried, either in U.S. courts or under the military system of justice. At the same time they would have been protected by Geneva from torture and other cruel treatment.

...not a single al Qaeda leader has been prosecuted in the past four years. The Pentagon's system of hearings on the status of Guantanamo detainees, introduced only after a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court, has no way of resolving the long-term status of most detainees. The CIA has no long-term plan for its secret prisoners, whom one agency official described as "a horrible burden." ...

There is no more important issue before the country or Congress. Yet the advocates of decency and common sense seem to have meager support from the Democratic Party. Senate Democrats staged a legislative stunt on Tuesday intended to reopen -- once again -- the debate on prewar intelligence about Iraq. They have taken no such dramatic stand against the CIA's abuses of foreign prisoners; on a conference committee considering Mr. McCain's amendment, Democratic support has been faltering. While Democrats grandstand about a war debate that took place three years ago, the Bush administration's champions of torture are quietly working to preserve policies whose reversal ought to be an urgent priority."

In all fairness, the Dems deserve a smidgen of credit for finally finding a backbone; however they certainly ought to be called to task for coming so damn late to the party — gutless wonders. Will it take them three more years to publicly call for the administration to be held accountable for prisoner abuse and mistreatment?

But then again, who will hold the Dems accountable? It's past time for major systemic change. What's that old saying: We get the government we deserve?


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