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Shocked to be shocked
by Thanos Kalamidas
2014-12-12 12:36:44
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Perhaps cynicism comes with age; perhaps it has to do with my work and my interest in politics but I have become a cynic when it comes to politics, politicians and their motives. When Barack Obama announced his intentions to publicize the latest US Senate report on the torturing that happened during the George W. Bush era, I tried to find his motives for doing so. I mean the American president was going to publicize something that would totally embarrass his own country.

And it is not only that. He actually gives proof to all those, including the most extreme elements of radicalism all around the word, to excuse their acts. In the eve of the publication of the report, the US State Department felt forced to warn or diplomatic missions abroad, especially in troubled areas, for expecting troubles.

torture01_400It might all be about legacy. Obama wants to be remembered as the most transparent and democrat western leader. I have my reasons for saying western and not US. So democrat that he is able to publicize something that will totally embarrass his country and might endanger its citizens abroad, but which is a mistake, wrong doing that we ought to know and talk about it. Actually it is a crime.

Whatever his motives Obama publicized the report shocking everybody including the far-right John McCain who has excused everything George W. Bush has done. But this is not my issue. After all for the next few weeks hundreds perhaps thousands of articles are going to be publish about the torture report and thousands analysts all around the world are going to explain it. The same time media and simple people will express their shock. And this is my issue.

I’m shocked that people are shocked.

In the era of information there is little we can miss, so there is no day that goes by when we don’t read about another victim of torture making headlines. Usually it is an infant because an infant murdered by its own parents after brutal torturing makes better headlines and sells more. But the victims of torturing are thousands of thousands all around the world with most of them living in constant torture circumstances and not even 1% of them ends in a police station or at least in the offices of an NGO. And this is something we all know.

Every each one of us knows a victim of torture, either in a domestic violence incident, bulling or actual an intentional torture. Please don’t tell me that you have never suspected or read somewhere, that when an immigrant is arrested, his/hers time in the police station is not exceptionally comfortable. There are reports from Italy, Spain and Greece; three places where there is a huge entrance of dispirit immigrants, where police brutality and torture in police stations is simply inhuman.

Actually what happens all around the world in police stations is terra incognita. Is something no government or state really dares to touch. For the simple reason that in most cases police doesn’t serve the people but serves the interests of the governments. They are part of a corrupted  establishment in its heart.

Do the governments know about all these cases? Of course they know but they have the luxury to pretend that they don’t. Did government all around the world knew about the torturing practiced by CIA? Of course they did. The Greek, the Italian, the German, the British, the Saudi, the Egyptian, the Turkish government all of them knew. Actually a lot of this torturing has happened in bases in their countries. But were they limited into accepting that something inhuman and illegal was happening in their soil or they practice the same methods in their countries?

Egypt and Turkey are part of the midnight express. Opposition, demonstrators, Kurds, intellectuals, reporters, journalists have felt what torturing means in those countries first handed. You don’t expect much from Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea or Saudi Arabia but what about out democratic, transparent and champion of the human rights west?

For the next few weeks everybody will accuse USA for barbaric and inhuman acts and all will show their shock and disgust with the tortures. But what about looking at the mirror? Would Great Britain, France and Germany accept an independent committee to investigate and come with a report? And I mean really investigate and find the truth not another huge cover up.

From my involvement in human rights NGOs I have seen thousands of reports about torturing and police brutality from all around Europe. From all the democratic and civilized nations that make the united Europe. If Angela Merkel and David Cameron accepted things like that happening in their countries – even if that happened from foreign soldiers to foreign enemies – what really happens in their own countries? Don’t the media know about it?

Another question. Is it different when CIA tortures a Taliban and it is different when a poor immigrant is tortured in an Italian cell? What makes the difference? What about the poor infant, the girlfriend, the wife, the daughter? What about the black boy who looked like a gangster and the guy with the beard that looked like a terrorist? Or our disgust is limited to the surroundings of the Guantanamo?

I’m not trying to clear out Barack Obama, he is equally a hypocrite with the whole thing. If he really wanted transparency he should also want punishment to the guilt and for that there are international courts and especially The Hague. But USA doesn’t accept The Hague’s jurisdiction with US citizens. Why? Shouldn’t Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney who supposed to be the ones who gave the orders to follow the same way with other criminals? And wouldn’t be The Hague international court the best place to give them a fair judgment? That’s Obama’s hypocrisy that makes me wander what are his real motives.

For the rest of us …well I’m shocked we are shocked!

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Emanuel Paparella2014-12-12 14:29:43
All those politicians around the world who call torture and reprehensible methods such as rectal feeding “enhanced interrogations” and insist that ends justify means ought to either be prosecuted as criminals for violations of human rights (which are and remain universal and unalienable) or at the very least be sent to an insane asylum for their deranged political views and abuse of common sense language. Indeed Thanos, why be shocked that a Cheney as we speak keeps on claiming that “the end justifies the means” and two wrongs somehow makes a right. He and all the other honorable politicians of the Western world so ethically challenged have read and absorbed their Machiavelli. They are just applying it to the world of “real-politik” while mouthing platitudes about democratic political ideals. Their likes make a mockery of the Nuremberg trials where all those who kept saying that it was all legal and “we were just following orders” were tried and hanged. Never mind ethical considerations; mere logical consistence demands that their modern counterparts in torture methods ought to be brought before an International court of justice and be prosecuted. After all the US constitution forbids “cruel and unusual punishment” and the US is not only signature to the Geneva Convention forbidding torture of any kind but wrote the documents for the declaration of human rights. Therefore, again applying simple logic and common sense, those who violate their own constitution and the agreements they signed cannot even be considered patriotic Americans, or Italians or Germans, of Poles who at the very least allowed torture to happen on their soil so that Bush and Cheney could go around proclaiming that “we do not torture in the US,” what they failed to express is that the torture was being conducted on foreign soil by CIA operatives. These kind of tactics not only do not lead to the goal desired, as the investigation ascertained, but do precious little to enhance the moral standing of the country. Indeed, those who engaged in those tactics need to be brought to justice or the investigation will turn out to be an exercise in futility or an outright mockery of justice.

Murray Hunter2014-12-12 17:11:43
Please remember Barak H. Obama is a drone president and sanctions extra-judicial killings. This is even more shocking that US and other citizens can and are killed by UAVs flying around the sky. The president that Lawyer Obama has set for the rest of the world is that the state can be the charger, judge, and executionor all in one. This is only a small runner into this new precedent Obama has created.

WMA2014-12-13 15:32:14

News Release

13 December 2014


The World Medical Association strongly denounces the use of torture and the reported involvement of health professionals.

Commenting on this week's report from a United States Senate committee on the Detention and Interrogation Program, the WMA said it had made clear in recent days and over many years its policy of denouncing all torture and on the prohibition of physician participation in torture. The use of non-medical rectal hydration and feeding, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, physical violence, prolonged use of stress positions, lack of access to appropriate medical care for treatment of injuries and mock burials were all deeply disturbing. According to the report, health personnel were involved in these interrogation techniques.

Dr. Xavier Deau, President of the WMA, said: ‘As representatives of the world's physicians, the WMA utterly condemns all forms of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures. We maintain the utmost respect for human life and the ethical obligations on all physicians to “first do no harm” and to respect human dignity.

‘The WMA has a clear commitment, as stated in the WMA Declaration of Tokyo, on prohibiting physicians from participating in, or even being present during, the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures.'

Dr. Deau added: ‘The details of these reports are deeply disturbing. Participation by physicians or other healthcare professionals in torture undermines the trust, credibility and integrity of the profession. It is the medical community's unequivocal ethical duty to denounce such inhumane, immoral acts'.

Dr. Xavier Deau WMA President

Emanuel Paparella2014-12-13 16:40:08
I am afraid that those who equate acts of war and their collateral damage to acts of torture or inhumanity are confusing apples and oranges, barking up the wrong tree and contributing to the general befuddlement on this issue apparent in the media. No soldier or bomber who unintentionally caused death to civilians was ever put on trial at Nuremberg after World War II as having conducted “extra judicial” killings. In a war properly declared and justified a soldier does not have to get permission from a judge before killing any of the enemies, or all soldiers who served in World War II and other wars would be ipso facto criminals guilty of extra-judicial killings. The argument would be much less misguided and politically biased if, for example, the nuclear bombing of entire cities in Japan in 1945 was placed on the table together with the million lives of American soldiers it allegedly saved.

Those who put people in concentration camps and tortured them were tried and hanged at Nuremberg, and justifiably so. Kant who certainly cannot be accused of being a moral idiot, in his Critique of Practical Reason has well taught and clarified for us that to ethically judge the morality of any action three things have to be present: freedom, universality and intentionality. Without the express intention to target and harm civilians and only civilians a bombing raid’s collateral damage cannot by itself be considered a war crime against humanity. Which is not to say that collateral damage ought not be considered carefully and the raid aborted if it is certain that innocent civilians will be harmed; as in fact it has been done repeatedly. Acts of torture on the other hand, as the Geneva Convention and international agreements among nations make clear, are always unethical in themselves no matter who commits them, where they are committed, or the alleged strategic ends they serve. They are universally unethical and can never be rationalized as ethical or legal. Which is to say, Machiavelli was wrong: the end does not justify the means and bad means usually corrupt the good ends they supposedly serve. Those who commit those crime, in any nations, and there are various other nations which prefer to be silent on the matter, as Thanos' article makes clear, ought to be brought before the international court of law at the Hague.

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