America’s Anti-Torture Tradition

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

George Washington established the American value that "we do not torture" even in the face of atrocities committed by the British empire on American soil. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. authored this educational opinion America's Anti-Torture Tradition, which was published in the Los Angeles Times in December 2005 (excerpts):

Every schoolchild knows that Gen. George Washington made extraordinary efforts to protect America's civilian population from the ravages of war. Fewer Americans know that Revolutionary War leaders, including Washington and the Continental Congress, considered the decent treatment of enemy combatants to be one of the principal strategic preoccupations of the American Revolution.

"In 1776," wrote historian David Hackett Fischer in "Washington's Crossing," "American leaders believed it was not enough to win the war. They also had to win in a way that was consistent with the values of their society and the principles of their cause. One of their greatest achievements … was to manage the war in a manner that was true to the expanding humanitarian ideals of the American Revolution."

The fact that the patriots refused to abandon these principles, even in the dark times when the war seemed lost, when the enemy controlled our cities and our ragged army was barefoot and starving, credits the character of Washington and the founding fathers and puts to shame the conduct of America's present leadership.

Fischer writes that leaders in both the Continental Congress and the Continental Army resolved that the War of Independence would be conducted with a respect for human rights. This was all the more extraordinary because these courtesies were not reciprocated by King George's armies. Indeed, the British conducted a deliberate campaign of atrocities against American soldiers and civilians. While Americans extended quarter to combatants as a matter of right and treated their prisoners with humanity, British regulars and German mercenaries were threatened by their own officers with severe punishment if they showed mercy to a surrendering American soldier. Captured Americans were tortured, starved and cruelly maltreated aboard prison ships.

Washington decided to behave differently. After capturing 1,000 Hessians in the Battle of Trenton, he ordered that enemy prisoners be treated with the same rights for which our young nation was fighting. In an order covering prisoners taken in the Battle of Princeton, Washington wrote: "Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren…. Provide everything necessary for them on the road."

John Adams argued that humane treatment of prisoners and deep concern for civilian populations not only reflected the American Revolution's highest ideals, they were a moral and strategic requirement… Adams wrote: "I know of no policy, God is my witness, but this — Piety, Humanity and Honesty are the best Policy. Blasphemy, Cruelty and Villainy have prevailed and may again. But they won't prevail against America, in this Contest, because I find the more of them are employed, the less they succeed."

Even British military leaders involved in the atrocities recognized their negative effects on the overall war effort. In 1778, Col. Charles Stuart wrote to his father, the Earl of Bute: "Wherever our armies have marched, wherever they have encamped, every species of barbarity has been executed. We planted an irrevocable hatred wherever we went, which neither time nor measure will be able to eradicate."

In the end, our founding fathers not only protected our national values, they defeated a militarily superior enemy. Indeed, it was their disciplined adherence to those values that helped them win a hopeless struggle against the best soldiers in Europe.

In accordance with this proud American tradition, President Lincoln instituted the first formal code of conduct for the humane treatment of prisoners of war in 1863. Lincoln's order forbade any form of torture or cruelty, and it became the model for the 1929 Geneva Convention. Dwight Eisenhower made a point to guarantee exemplary treatment to German POWs in World War II, and Gen. Douglas McArthur ordered application of the Geneva Convention during the Korean War, even though the U.S. was not yet a signatory. In the Vietnam War, the United States extended the convention's protection to Viet Cong prisoners even though the law did not technically require it.

Kennedy concludes: "America's treatment of its prisoners is a test of our faith in our country and the character of our leaders."

0 responses to “America’s Anti-Torture Tradition

  1. Oh great, Imperial Japan used waterboarding, Nazi Germany used waterboarding, Rome used waterboarding, we should too. What lousy reasoning. All of those were successful countries right?

  2. Today we see The Speaker of The House Of Representatives say: “The CIA Lies to Congress All The Time!” and she represents oversight and accountability for the American people and can do nothing but take five different positions on statements she did or did not make?

    I would expect some bumbling from a first term Congressman or Woman but when your name shows on a CIA briefing with one other member of Congress named Porter Goss who later was made CIA Director don’t you think Pelosi would think more of the briefing than that of ordering a Pizza from Pappa John’s and if it had pepperoni or Sausage on it?

    What we deserve from Congress(forget what party) is oversight and accountabilty!

    If Congress had done its job we would NOT have seen a financial breakdown in the Banking System; Bankruptcy laws and The Rule Of Law being thrown out the window and this is the same bunch of jerks you want us to run our Healthcare System?

    Lets fix Congress so it can work basic math before we start giving them algerbra!

    As for Torture ; if waterboarding is torture why is it a manditory requirement for all of our Military as basic training?

    If we are the only ones in the World who do waterboarding why do we have to train against it?

    Fact: Japan; Germany; and even Rome used Waterboarding Folks!

  3. As always, Nobama cares little about the facts.

    The 1993 attack was planned by a group of conspirators including Ramzi Yousef, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammad Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, Abdul Rahman Yasin and Ahmad Ajaj. They received financing from Khaled Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle. In March 1994, four men were convicted of carrying out the bombing: Abouhalima, Ajaj, Ayyad and Salameh. The charges included conspiracy, explosive destruction of property and interstate transportation of explosives. And in November 1997, two more were convicted: Yousef, the mastermind behind the bombings, and Eyad Ismoil, who drove the truck carrying the bomb.

    Mohammed Jamal Khalifa was arrested on December 14, 1994, and was deported to Jordan by the INS on May 5, 1995. He was acquitted by a Jordanian court and lived as a free man in Saudi Arabia until his death in 2007.

    The only 1993 conspirator not convicted was Abdul Rahman Yasin, who had in fact been taken to FBI headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, but was then released. The next day, he flew back to Iraq, via Amman, Jordan. Yasin was later indicted for the attack, and in 2001 he was placed on the initial list of the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists, on which he remains today.

    Presumably Nobama is referring to the financier of the 1993 bombing, Khaled Shaikh Mohammed, who was not the mastermind. “KSM” is purported to be the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and is detained at Guantanamo.

    The ability of the U.S. to try and convict KSM for being the purported mastermind of 9/11 has been compromised by waterboarding KSM 183 times, universally recognized as torture. Any statements KSM made under the duress of torture are inadmissible, and highly suspect – a tortured prisoner will say anything to make the torture stop.

    The testimony of FBI special agent Ali Soufan at the torture hearing on Wednesday is most informative

  4. All I can say is… darn I love history – so – very – much.

  5. after the FIRST Trade Center Bombing we did not TRY to get answers and in fact left the mastermind go.

    Tell the 3000 dead Citizens of The World Trade Center how noble we were with THEIR lives!