Writer Christopher Hitchens being waterboarded. It’s torture.
Human Rights Watch is recommending a criminal investigation into the George W. Bush administration. Their use of torture was common, horrific, admitted and pointless. It both hurt captive human beings and hurt America. From Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay, US torture was documented, much to their discredit and the discredit of human rights policy in general.
The truth is that any investigation into Sri Lanka or anywhere is not a fair application of international law unless that law also applies to the US. That’s the political reality, not the ethical one, I don’t think that ethics are relative. That said, HRW is calling for an investigation into the US. Not that there’s even much to investigate.
George Tenet asked if he had permission to use enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
“Damn right,” I said.
For better or worse, the US does shape the language and behavior of the world. Every other nation has taken the war on terror ‘anything goes’ mentality and, well, run with it. From the UK to Sri Lanka, the specter of terrorism has been enough to justify almost anything.
Obama has rolled things back a bit, but not really. It’s still a mainstream debate as to whether torture is OK in the US (it’s not) and this has knock-on effects with the rest of the world. So, I think it is important that Bush, Cheney et al are prosecuted for their use of torture and assorted, gratuitous war crimes. I say gratuitous because they were ultimately pointless. Cruelty towards an end can be politically excused (Hiroshima, etc), but I don’t think there’s any excuse for cruelty in the service of incompetence and ruin.
So, Human Rights Watch is serving the west the same sauce it serves everyone else. It probably won’t stick, but it should.