Republicans have made Ronald Reagan into a false idol whom they worship — the mythologized version of Ronaldus Magnus in the conservative media entertainment complex mind you, not the actual man or the reality of what he actually stood for.
In the “debate” over the use of illegal torture by the CIA as authorized and approved by members of the Bush-Cheney regime, I find it curious that no Republican is asking “What would Ronald Reagan do?” (WWRRD).
The reason they do not ask is because the modern-day Republican Party is not your father’s GOP. They do not like the answer that their sainted Ronnie Reagan actually provided them.
It was President Reagan who negotiated and submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification of the “Convention Against Torture and Inhuman Treatment or Punishment” in 1988. Message to the Senate Transmitting the Convention Against Torture and Inhuman Treatment or Punishment:
Message to the Senate Transmitting the Convention Against Torture and Inhuman Treatment or Punishment
May 20, 1988
To the Senate of the United States:
With a view to receiving the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification, subject to certain reservations, understandings, and declarations, I transmit herewith the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Convention was adopted by unanimous agreement of the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1984, and entered into force on June 26, 1987. The United States signed it on April 18, 1988. I also transmit, for the information of the Senate, the report of the Department of State on the Convention.
The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.
The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called “universal jurisdiction.” Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.
In view of the large number of States concerned, it was not possible to negotiate a treaty that was acceptable to the United States in all respects. Accordingly, certain reservations, understandings, and declarations have been drafted, which are discussed in the report of the Department of State. With the inclusion of these reservations, understandings, and declarations, I believe there are no constitutional or other legal obstacles to United States ratification. The recommended legislation necessary to implement the Convention will be submitted to the Congress separately.
Should the Senate give its advice and consent to ratification of the Convention, I intend at the time of deposit of United States ratification to make a declaration pursuant to Article 28 that the United States does not recognize the competence of the Committee against Torture under Article 20 to make confidential investigations of charges that torture is being systematically practiced in the United States. In addition, I intend not to make declarations, pursuant to Articles 21 and 22 of the Convention, recognizing the competence of the Committee against Torture to receive and consider communications from States and individuals alleging that the United States is violating the Convention. I believe that a final United States decision as to whether to accept such competence of the Committee should be withheld until we have had an opportunity to assess the Committee’s work. It would be possible for the United States in the future to accept the competence of the Committee pursuant to Articles 20, 21, and 22, should experience with the Committee prove satisfactory and should the United States consider this step desirable.
By giving its advice and consent to ratification of this Convention, the Senate of the United States will demonstrate unequivocally our desire to bring an end to the abhorrent practice of torture.
The White House,
May 20, 1988.
The U.S. Senate debated and ratified the “Convention Against Torture and Inhuman Treatment or Punishment” in 1994.
The UN Convention Against Torture provides, in pertinent part, that:
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
In other words, the Torture Memos authored by John Yoo as Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the United States, and signed in August 2002 by Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, head of the Office of Legal Counsel of the United States Department of Justice, and approved by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez provide no justification or defense to illegal torture.
Nor do the executive orders issued by President George W. Bush, nor any approval or authorization by executive department personnel a justification or defense. “I was just following orders” is no defense for CIA personnel who carried out the illegal torture.
The U.S. is required to prosecute those individuals who authorized and carried out acts of illegal torture, just as President Reagan affirmed in his Message to the U.S. Senate.
1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
2. Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.
1. Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to in article 4 in the following cases:
1. When the offences are committed in any territory under its jurisdiction or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that State;
2. When the alleged offender is a national of that State;
3. When the victim was a national of that State if that State considers it appropriate.
2. Each State Party shall likewise take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over such offences in cases where the alleged offender is present in any territory under its jurisdiction and it does not extradite him pursuant to article 8 to any of the States mentioned in Paragraph 1 of this article.
3. This Convention does not exclude any criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with internal law.
The mythological Ronaldus Magnus would follow the rule of law and prosecute those individuals involved in illegal torture to the fullest extent of the law to protect America’s honor and moral standing in the world. You know, that whole “shining city on a hill” shtick.
The real Ronald Reagan — the man who violated numerous laws in the Iran-Contra Scandal and who should have been impeached for it — would have failed to prosecute these torturers, just as the Obama Justice Department has failed to prosecute them. Still, there is no excuse for the failure to prosecute.