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My Letter to President Obama & Congress Re Torture Under the Bush Administration April 24, 2009

Posted by Suzanne Robinson in politics.
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Dear President Obama and Members of Congress:

It is the legal duty of our Justice Department to investigate serious allegations of torture, to prosecute ALL those reasonably suspected of such atrocities, and to punish those who are found responsible.  And it is your duty, as our leaders, to encourage, not hinder, such an investigation.  President Obama’s statement that ‘this is a time for reflection, not retribution’ is a statement that, in my mind, does not pass muster. For, bringing criminals to trial is not retribution, rather it is justice.   The legitimacy of our criminal justice system rests on the principle that NO American is above the law. President Obama’s rational for neglecting the duty to launch an investigation, here, is not one he or any other well-trained lawyer would ever use toward an ordinary citizen believed to have committed heinous crimes, and I believe that he is seriously misguided and disingenuous to use it as a rationale for neglecting his duty to uphold the laws of our country in this instance.

In making this statement, you, President Obama, make a mockery of our criminal justice system which is in place to seek and bring  justice and, thereby, to negate the need for wronged individuals to seek retribution.   In promising  justice to all, it serves to discourage and, where necessary, to  punish retribution.

Further, if we are to be, and be seen as, a just country, it is imperative that we investigate ALL charges of illegality regardless of the social standing or power of the accused. To do otherwise brings disgrace on you as our leaders, brings the disdain of the world upon us, and undermines our belief in the fairness of our justice system.

Moreover, we would not tolerate such a statement on behalf of other world leaders, particularly if their countrymen had tortured Americans.  Rather, we would demand that those who refused to meet their duty to see that justice was done be themselves prosecuted for their neglect.

As an American citizen, an American trained lawyer and one of your supporters, President Obama, I fully and completely reject your exceptionally flawed reasoning here.  You are abdicating responsibility and furthering the idea of American exceptionalism.  I am utterly shocked and dismayed that would ever utter such a statement.

According to the recently released bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report, the Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush distorted the meaning and the intent of our anti-torture laws.  The administration then went out of its way to rationalize the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody.  Because substantial evidence exists, it is your duty to see that an investigation of these allegations is made.

I agree with Amnesty International that our leaders must ‘establish and support a non-partisan, independent commission of distinguished Americans to investigate this matter.’  This commission must examine Bush Administration actions and policies regarding  the detention, treatment and transfer of detainees after the 9/11 attacks.  It must also deeply consider the consequences of those actions and policies and provide a comprehensive report on its findings and its recommendations for making future policy in this area.  I agree, too, that this commission must be ‘independent, backed by the full force of law, and adequately funded.’  Do not forget that it is our government’s  legal obligation to uphold the laws of our nation and to prosecute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

Finally, I reiterate Amnesty International’s request that President Obama’s Administration make public all relevant policy memos that argued for, documented, and/or established the basis for detainee treatment, including their subjection to coercive interrogation techniques under the  Bush administration.  In order to fulfill your promise of transparency in government, President Obama, you must see to it that the truth is made known about the abuses that were committed in our names.  We have the right to know.

Sincerely,

Suzanne Robinson

Below, I add a partial response I made to one of our readers:

Your comment regarding your desire to see those who sanctioned waterboarding receive a little of their own medicine is so poignant because there are many Americans who share your sentiment – that those who were culpable should experience that which they had a hand in bringing upon others. That’s why I find another statement made by President Obama – that it is time for us to move on, to heal – so entirely maddening and, frankly, more than a bit frightening.

Moving on – in a way that is healthy for our country, for democracy, for our peace of mind – necessarily includes the regaining of some sense of right and wrong, some sense of a limit to otherwise unchecked and dangerous power.

While no one can undo what has been done, our government can and, I think, must demonstrate for us and for the world that in America these atrocities do not go unanswered. It is only then, I think, that we may truly heal. It is only then that we can move on with any faith that our government will, acting on our behalves, uphold our values and our laws.

For me, one bottom line is this. If a democratically elected government does not meet this duty to its citizens – the duty to severely punish torture at the hands of those entrusted with the power of public office – we are left with nothing but to live in fear of our government.

Thanks to condron.us and alpha inventions, two great resources for bloggers!

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Comments»

1. My Letter to President Obama & Congress Re Torture Under the Bush Administration - April 24, 2009

[…] Original post by Suzanne Robinson […]

2. Foxwood - April 25, 2009

Let’s go surfin’ now
Everybody’s learnin’ how
Do some waterboardin’ with me!

3. Kerra Mascaro - April 27, 2009

I blogged on this torture issue and am in agreement with you. I underscore your point that if Americans were tortured by another nation and the leaders of that nation announced that they would not prosecute their former leaders because they need to get their country back together and move forward…not looking back, Amercians would be outraged. Addressing this issue and pursuing justice is the only way we can go if were are to become a moral and just nation. Most Americans think that only foreign detainees have been tortured; There are accounts of similar, though probably not yet as severe, events happening to American citizens by our own government officials. Research Steve Anderson stopped at Arizona State check point.

thanks for our work

Suzanne Robinson - April 28, 2009

Kerra,

Thanks for your comment. You are absolutely right that we, collectively, would be up in arms were another world leader to take the stance that President Obama took in making the statement I referenced above.

I have heard rumors about American citizens being subjected to inhumane and illegal treatment at the hands of the Bush Administration, but I haven’t read any substantive reports to date. That is not to say that they don’t exist, and I will do some research, including reading the instance you reference in your comment.

While it is the duty of our leaders to uphold the law, it is our duty to stay informed. So thanks for sharing your information here.

Warm regards,

Suzanne

4. Heidi Rafferty - April 28, 2009

This letter is so well-written. I think you should circulate it on email lists in the form of a petition, because it is so well-put. Seriously. I would sign it!

The good news is that we live in a free country where our voices can be heard on this. The bad news is that those in power protect those in power. Look at what happened with Watergate … in the end, who received the pardon from President Ford?

In my opinion, justice would be served if those who participated and sanctioned the waterboarding experienced it for a few minutes themselves. But we know that would never happen either, right?

What saddens me is that as a nation (in my mind), we have always represented what is good and noble. To think that we stooped to the evil of others is nothing short of sickening. We become no better than them when we act in this manner.

Whatever happened to this concept: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

You know who said that?

Jesus.

Sincerely,
Heidi Rafferty
Harrodsburg, KY USA

5. Suzanne Robinson - April 28, 2009

Heidi,

Thanks for your comment and your extraordinary compliment! At first I shrugged off your suggestion, but, in thinking about the serious implications of another Obama statement, referenced below, I am seriously considering circulating a petition. The only problem is that I don’t know how to do so without soliciting individual responses. Do you? If you, or any of our readers know how I might do this, please let me know. Otherwise, I will seek out some guidance, and if I get one going, Heidi, I will certainly send it your way.

Your comment regarding your desire to see those who sanctioned waterboarding receive a little of their own medicine is so poignant because there are many Americans who share your sentiment – that those who were culpable should experience that which they had a hand in bringing upon others. That’s why I find another statement made by President Obama – that it is time for us to move on, to heal – so entirely maddening and, frankly, more than a bit frightening.

Moving on – in a way that is healthy for our country, for democracy, for our peace of mind – necessarily includes the regaining of some sense of right and wrong, some sense of a limit to otherwise unchecked and dangerous power.

While no one can undo what has been done, our government can and, I think, must demonstrate for us and for the world that in America these atrocities do not go unanswered. It is only then, I think, that we may truly heal. It is only then that we can move on with any faith that our government will, acting on our behalves, uphold our values and our laws.

For me, the bottom line is this. If a democratically elected government does not meet this duty to its citizens – the duty to severely punish torture at the hands of those entrusted with the power of public office – we are left with nothing but to live in fear of our government.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and concerns. You made me think more deeply.

Warm regards,

Suzanne

Heidi Rafferty - April 28, 2009

Hi Suzanne,
Regarding the petition .. ugh, good point and good question.

If I may be so bold to suggest it … I often receive petitions via email from an organization called Voice of the Martyrs. You could probably check out their Web site, because they do a lot of this type of thing for people who are undergoing torture in other countries for their faith. (www.persecution.org). In fact, if you look at the left-hand column, they actually have a line that says, “Sign Petitions.” I can put you in touch with someone from that group who could advise you about how they go about it … feel free to email me directly if you need their info.

Your follow-up comments to me are so interesting, and I agree with you, it’s enough to scare everyone out of their minds. While we have pursued protection of our country from terror, I’m afraid we have stepped across a line that was heretofore unthinkable for us. Bottom line is, when human nature is concerned, we are all capable of great good and great evil, regardless of our country of origin.

Best wishes to you.
Heidi

6. Blog Tag - April 29, 2009

Hi, you have got a nice blog. I have started a blog too. It’s about reviewing other blogs. This way i place a short description, a snapshot and a backlink to your blog. In return, I ask for a back link from your blog.
Check it out at blogtag.co.cc .

7. Jack Burke - May 3, 2009

I wonder how you would feel if one of your loved ones was being held by a sexual predator and you could either authorize waterboarding an accomplice or just try to negotiate their freedom. Whichever your answer, go and sharew it with your own loved ones.

Personally, I’d do whatever it took to protect and save my loved ones. Whatever it tok!!


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