Rendition to Torture

Rendition to Torture

Rendition to Torture

Rendition to Torture

Synopsis

Universally condemned and everywhere illegal, torture goes on in democracies as well as in dictatorships. Nonetheless, many Americans were surprised following the attacks of 9/11 at how easily the United States embraced torture as well as the supposedly lesser evil of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Nothing seemed extreme when it came to questioning real and imagined terrorists. Extraordinary rendition--sending people captured in the "war on terror" to nations long counted among the world's worst human rights violators--hid from the public eye cruel and bloody interrogations. "Torture lite" or "torture without marks" became the norm for those in American custody.

In Rendition to Torture, Alan W. Clarke explains how the United States adopted torture as a matter of official policy; how and why it turned to extraordinary rendition as a way to outsource more extreme, mutilating forms of torture; and outlines the steps the United States took to hide its abuses. Many adverse consequences attended American use of torture. False information gleaned from torture was used to justify the Iraq war, adding potency to the charge that the war was illegal under international law. Moreover, European nations and Canada aided, abetted, and became thoroughly enmeshed in U.S.-led torture and renditions, thereby spreading both the problem and the blame for this practice. Clarke offers an extended critique of these activities, placing them in historical and legal context as well as in transnational and comparative perspective.

Excerpt

Democracies claim never to torture. Former president George W. Bush asserted that the “United States does not torture” because it is “against our values.” Torture violates the most fundamental international norms, abhorred equally with slavery and genocide and punishable as an international crime. Most democracies, including Canada, Great Britain, and the United States, also make torture a crime under domestic law. No exceptions are supposed to be permitted; neither war nor the “ticking bomb” nor any other events override the prohibition, which has been declared utterly outlawed. Moreover, end-runs are likewise proscribed; a nation cannot export its interrogations, problem prisoners, or unwanted aliens to a scofflaw nation’s torture chambers. According to Judge Irving Kauffman in writing the oft-cited Filartiga case, “the torturer has become like the pirate and the slave trader before him hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind.”

What are we to make of extraordinary rendition? Of rendition to torture? After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the United States turned to so-called harsh interrogation techniques that ordinary people would deem outright torture. Even that level of cruelty did not suffice, and some in the administration argued for even harsher interrogation tools. The United States picked up alleged terrorists from all over the world and sent them to countries that subjected them to the most brutal and medieval torture. Bones and lives were shattered as U.S. agents, using private corporate jets, carried the innocent and guilty alike to Morocco, Syria, and Egypt. The prohibition against torture fell away without appreciable resistance. As David Luban puts it, “American abhorrence to torture now appears to have extraordinarily shallow roots.”

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