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Every denomination needs one of these...

One more note on torture

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I'm feeling compelled to post again on torture since either I didn't make my point very well with the last two posts on this or some people are intentionally misrepresenting what I wrote. Here's another try...

First of all, since United Church of Christ President John Thomas made his statement about torture, I am separating the issue into two key parts: activities our government acknowledges are illegal with activities they believe are legal. This is an important distinction because it makes no sense to protest against something that we already have laws against.

What happened at Abu Ghraib was illegal and those guilty of it were prosecuted. We clearly have laws against what happened at Abu Ghraib and if more people up the food chain are responsible for what happened, they should be prosecuted also. I don't see a debate here.

What is up for debate are the methods our government believes is legal (or at one time were legal) for interogation which include "The Attention Grab," "The Attention Slap," "The Belly Slap", "Longtime Standing", "The Cold Cell" and "Waterboarding". When people claim to be against our government's use of torture and claim "Not in our name", this is what they are talking about, not what happened at Abu Ghraib.


If you don't understand the difference between what is believed to be legal and illegal and what people are protesting against, start from the top and read again... and keep reading until you get it (this means YOU Pastor Dan!).

OK... hopefully we are all on the same track so far.

There are two points now to consider:

1) Are these legal methods of interogation moral?
2) Are the protests against them based on morality or are they based on politics?

On the first point, I think well meaning and moral people will disagree which methods of interogation are moral. Is a belly slap immoral? Is waterboarding? One method stings and hurts badly while the other is intended to make you think you are near death. I think there is a difference here and I think opinions on morality are going to vary based on the methods. Effectiveness is a whole other issue but I don't think morality can be weighed by effectiveness so it's immaterial to me. I believe there may be effective interogation methods but that doesn't mean they are moral.

The second point goes to the motivation for protest which I think is a fair question. Pastor Dan calls attention to the ongoing testimony on torture... which has been virtually non-stop since the Abu Ghraib scandal. There is nothing new in any of this.

So again I ask, why now in the midst of an election season is John Thomas issuing statements about torture? While I don't doubt that he really believes what he is saying, I think it's more about political drama just as he has done in the past.

Finally, I need to correct Pastor Dan whose problems with reading comprehension have caused him again to misrepresent my words. On his blog yesterday, he claims...
Calling torture "a morally wrong but necessary thing to do" is hardly rejecting it. Nor is labeling the conversation about as essentially bygones taking a very firm stance. The fact is that senior members of the administration knew and approved of the mistreatment of detainees. What happened at Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Base and Guantanamo and God alone knows how many secret prisons around the world was not the work of a few bad apples. It was a systemic effort, and the people responsible for putting it into motion still have not been called to account for their actions.
Here is what I actually said:
The moral argument against torture is also disingenuous at this point because we are in a war where we are aiming guns at people and blowing their heads clean off their shoulders. If we as a country accept that this is a morally wrong but necessary thing to do, than I'm quite a bit less sensitive to concerns about a belly slap and I haven't honestly explored it's moral implications.
My statement was in context to the previous sentence was about our country generally accepting war being "a morally wrong but necessary thing to do" - not torture!
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, July 01, 2008


"What happened at Abu Ghraib was illegal and those guilty of it were prosecuted. We clearly have laws against what happened at Abu Ghraib and if more people up the food chain are responsible for what happened, they should be prosecuted also. I don't see a debate here."

If you don't see the debate, you need to look harder. A number of us are still quite upset that these actions, while illegal, have not been properly litigated by our justice system. Those that created these conditions, and are partially responsible, are still serving in positions of authority. Just because an action was illegal, does not mean that justice was served.

"Are the protests against them based on morality or are they based on politics?"


"I think there is a difference here and I think opinions on morality are going to vary based on the methods. Effectiveness is a whole other issue but I don't think morality can be weighed by effectiveness so it's immaterial to me. I believe there may be effective interogation methods but that doesn't mean they are moral."

Waterboarding is universally seen as torture in all modern Western societies. The United States charged Japanese soldiers with crimes against humanity for using waterboarding in WWII. There is little question that waterboarding is torture. The question is whether torture is morally acceptable in the struggle against global terrorism. The definition of torture used by the Bush Administration (must cause significant injury or organ failure) is a novel idea that is completely foreign to international law.

"So again I ask, why now in the midst of an election season is John Thomas issuing statements about torture?"

Because David Addington and John Yoo testified in front of Congress last week. They were the legal architects for the memo authorizing torture in the Bush Administration. I work at a law school so I closely follow these events but surely they were in the news.

The entire premise of your argument is that war, and by extension torture, are both morally unacceptable yet necessary given our present environment. Over 70% of your fellow Americans reject the premise that this war was necessary. Despite this, torture is never appropriate. I know you are familiar with the "just war" doctrine so this is not foreign to you.
commented by Blogger David, 8:10 PM  
All this is BS

We are doing whatever is necessary to obtain information about the killing of Americans

Legal or not, you ought to get down off your high horses and understand what kind of enemy we are dealing with and stop being so hateful toward the administration that every move is subject to a war crime tribunal

The moonbat libs have been after Bush since he was elected

They are determined to bring him down anyway they can

Thomas just likes to be relevant when deep down he knows he is irrelevant

By supporting Rev Wright and his comments about America - Thomas has no moral high ground to make such statements about the current administration
commented by Blogger Paul Jamieson, 7:58 AM  
"Over 70% of your fellow Americans reject the premise that this war was necessary."

This is a reminder about who Saddam Husssein is and what he has done. The world seems to have a short memory when it comes to the Iraq war and it is so easy to demonize one side or another but let's not forget what happened. 2 million killed by his tortuous hand. The world is a better place without this tyrant. Regardless of how people view the current war in Iraq, and the on going internal struggles, let the blame be placed on the doorstep of Saddam, Not Bush

How about ripping people tounges out?

How about cutting off hands and arms?

How about throwing people of buildings?

How about putting bullets in their heads at close range?

How about gassing children?

How about raping women and children?

Now tell me about torture again.



commented by Blogger Paul Jamieson, 8:05 AM  
I think this is another example of the sort of "if John Thomas says the sky is blue it must be green" type of thinking that dominates this blog.

Torture is evil, period. Only partisan politics could blind anyone to that basic fact. And speaking out against evil is never inappropriate, even if a church leader you despise happens to be the one speaking out.

Paul, we did not go into Iraq because of Saddam's torture chambers -at least, that is not how the war was sold to the American public. We went in to get the weapons of mass destruction, which, it turns out, he did not have. John Thomas was right about the war and your side was wrong -something you should reflect on a little before telling people to "shut their mouths."
commented by Blogger MML, 3:04 PM  

We go to war when we are threatened; we don't go to war to defeat tyrants (unless they threaten us.)
We have tolerated tyrants (and even supported some) around the world, within 100 miles of our shores, in a number of African nations, and we have never sacrificed 4000 or even 1000 at changing a regime that did not threaten us.
commented by Blogger Don Niederfrank, 8:10 PM  
More BS


"We did not go to war over torture chambers"

How ignorant can you be.

keep your heads in the sand

They will soon be cut off by a terrorist

I would rather wear a pair of panties on my head than have it cut clean off

Do you remember the story of how Jesus struck Saul with a lightning bolt and then blinded him???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Why WOULD HE DO THAT??????????????

and what was the result????????????
commented by Blogger Paul Jamieson, 9:18 AM  
Jul 6, 4:45 AM (ET)


The last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program - a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium - reached a Canadian port Saturday to complete a secret U.S. operation that included a two-week airlift from Baghdad and a ship voyage crossing two oceans.

The removal of 550 metric tons of "yellowcake" - the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment - was a significant step toward closing the books on Saddam's nuclear legacy. It also brought relief to U.S. and Iraqi authorities who had worried the cache would reach insurgents or smugglers crossing to Iran to aid its nuclear ambitions.

What's now left is the final and complicated push to clean up the remaining radioactive debris at the former Tuwaitha nuclear complex about 12 miles south of Baghdad - using teams that include Iraqi experts recently trained in the Chernobyl fallout zone in Ukraine.

"Everyone is very happy to have this safely out of Iraq," said a senior U.S. official who outlined the nearly three-month operation to The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

While yellowcake alone is not considered potent enough for a so-called "dirty bomb" - a conventional explosive that disperses radioactive material - it could stir widespread panic if incorporated in a blast. Yellowcake also can be enriched for use in reactors and, at higher levels, nuclear weapons using sophisticated equipment.

The Iraqi government sold the yellowcake to a Canadian uranium producer, Cameco Corp. (CCJ), in a transaction the official described as worth "tens of millions of dollars." A Cameco spokesman, Lyle Krahn, declined to discuss the price, but said the yellowcake will be processed at facilities in Ontario for use in energy-producing reactors.

"We are pleased ... that we have taken (the yellowcake) from a volatile region into a stable area to produce clean electricity," he said.

The deal culminated more than a year of intense diplomatic and military initiatives - kept hushed in fear of ambushes or attacks once the convoys were under way: first carrying 3,500 barrels by road to Baghdad, then on 37 military flights to the Indian Ocean atoll of Diego Garcia and finally aboard a U.S.-flagged ship for a 8,500-mile trip to Montreal.

And, in a symbolic way, the mission linked the current attempts to stabilize Iraq with some of the high-profile claims about Saddam's weapons capabilities in the buildup to the 2003 invasion.

Accusations that Saddam had tried to purchase more yellowcake from the African nation of Niger - and an article by a former U.S. ambassador refuting the claims - led to a wide-ranging probe into Washington leaks that reached high into the Bush administration.

Tuwaitha and an adjacent research facility were well known for decades as the centerpiece of Saddam's nuclear efforts.

Israeli warplanes bombed a reactor project at the site in 1981. Later, U.N. inspectors documented and safeguarded the yellowcake, which had been stored in aging drums and containers since before the 1991 Gulf War. There was no evidence of any yellowcake dating from after 1991, the official said.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have guarded the 23,000-acre site - surrounded by huge sand berms - following a wave of looting after Saddam's fall that included villagers toting away yellowcake storage barrels for use as drinking water cisterns.

Yellowcake is obtained by using various solutions to leach out uranium from raw ore and can have a corn meal-like color and consistency. It poses no severe risk if stored and sealed properly. But exposure carries well-documented health concerns associated with heavy metals such as damage to internal organs, experts say.

"The big problem comes with any inhalation of any of the yellowcake dust," said Doug Brugge, a professor of public health issues at the Tufts University School of Medicine.

Moving the yellowcake faced numerous hurdles.

Diplomats and military leaders first weighed the idea of shipping the yellowcake overland to Kuwait's port on the Persian Gulf. Such a route, however, would pass through Iraq's Shiite heartland and within easy range of extremist factions, including some that Washington claims are aided by Iran. The ship also would need to clear the narrow Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf, where U.S. and Iranian ships often come in close contact.

Kuwaiti authorities, too, were reluctant to open their borders to the shipment despite top-level lobbying from Washington.

An alternative plan took shape: shipping out the yellowcake on cargo planes.

But the yellowcake still needed a final destination. Iraqi government officials sought buyers on the commercial market, where uranium prices spiked at about $120 per pound last year. It's currently selling for about half that. The Cameco deal was reached earlier this year, the official said.

At that point, U.S.-led crews began removing the yellowcake from the Saddam-era containers - some leaking or weakened by corrosion - and reloading the material into about 3,500 secure barrels.

In April, truck convoys started moving the yellowcake from Tuwaitha to Baghdad's international airport, the official said. Then, for two weeks in May, it was ferried in 37 flights to Diego Garcia, a speck of British territory in the Indian Ocean where the U.S. military maintains a base.

On June 3, an American ship left the island for Montreal, said the official, who declined to give further details about the operation.

The yellowcake wasn't the only dangerous item removed from Tuwaitha.

Earlier this year, the military withdrew four devices for controlled radiation exposure from the former nuclear complex. The lead-enclosed irradiation units, used to decontaminate food and other items, contain elements of high radioactivity that could potentially be used in a weapon, according to the official. Their Ottawa-based manufacturer, MDS Nordion, took them back for free, the official said.

The yellowcake was the last major stockpile from Saddam's nuclear efforts, but years of final cleanup is ahead for Tuwaitha and other smaller sites.

The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency plans to offer technical expertise.

Last month, a team of Iraqi nuclear experts completed training in the Ukrainian ghost town of Pripyat, which once housed the Chernobyl workers before the deadly meltdown in 1986, said an IAEA official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decontamination plan has not yet been publicly announced.

But the job ahead is enormous, complicated by digging out radioactive "hot zones" entombed in concrete during Saddam's rule, said the IAEA official. Last year, an IAEA safety expert, Dennis Reisenweaver, predicted the cleanup could take "many years."

The yellowcake issue also is one of the many troubling footnotes of the war for Washington.

A CIA officer, Valerie Plame, claimed her identity was leaked to journalists to retaliate against her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who wrote that he had found no evidence to support assertions that Iraq tried to buy additional yellowcake from Niger.

A federal investigation led to the conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
commented by Blogger Paul Jamieson, 9:40 AM  

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