Jordan and the US torture trail

The following paragraph caught my eye yesterday while reading this Washington post article:

Salah Ali and Muhammad Bashmilah, who were living in Indonesia, were arrested in August and October 2003, respectively; Ali in Jakarta and Bashmilah in Amman, Jordan. They were taken to a Jordanian prison and tortured — badly beaten and chained in uncomfortable positions — by Jordanian authorities before being transferred to U.S. custody, according to Amnesty International. Both men had traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 to learn about jihad, but neither man fought against the United States, according to FitzGerald.

Source: [Washington Post]

A number of Jordanian bloggers — here, here, and here — have discussed the issue of Jordan’s alleged involvement in interogating and torturing terror suspects. I have to admit, this issue has been tormenting me for a while. As much as I loathe the evil doings of the bloodsucking terrorists, I believe the Geneva Conventions, which ban torture, should be upheld. It is a tough situation, I know, as many might argue that these particular suspects are not really prisoners of war. I have the same dilemma as Jameed but I’m leaning towards banning the use of torture all together.

11 thoughts on “Jordan and the US torture trail”

  1. All three were released to Yemeni authorities in May. Ali and Bashmilah are in the central prison in Aden, and Assad is at a security prison at Al Ghaydah.

    And the end game … is that all 3 are still in prison in “Yemen”. “Yemen” must feel they have a case.

  2. It really is wrong on so many levels. I suppose the argument will be made: “Well they do it.” or some such. But the idea in a civilized society is to take the moral high ground. Not to ‘do it’ just because others do. Of course, that’s the idea with Geneva, which adds some teeth by saying those that do engage in torture can be tried as war criminals.
    But I think even if folks can’t get together on whether the “terrorists” captured should be labeled “unlawful combatants” (allowing circumvention of Geneva) or whether there are “situations” where torture is actually merited, they should consider the thoughts of US Senator John McCain, himself a former tortured POW from the Vietnam era. His point is that the US should not engage in an action that they would not want done to them; sort of the “Golden Rule of Torture” if you will. If the US goes ahead with this sort of ‘gray zone’ policy, moving prisoners ultimately to torture them for info, then they must accept that they have brought this methodology onto the playing field. That means others may see it as acceptable to torture US POWs, because, after all, the US is doing it.
    If from no other perspective than that of self-preservation, they should not engage in such a policy. George W. was basically hinting when questioned about this yesterday that he doesn’t want the terrorists to know the limits of what might be done to them – though he intimated that the US wouldn’t do anything ‘illegal.’ Perhaps that’s a good concept: Keep them guessing about the levels the US will go to stop them. But then there is reality: A civilized country that is a party to Geneva has rules that it must follow; it’s not a secret.

  3. I fully agree with Jeff that a civilized society has a very high standard that it must hold itself to. That’s what makes it different from the “Barbarians,” a word that Natasha likes to use quite often.
    Natasha, you have made it clear in your many postings that you aspire for the Jordanian society to make this huge leap forward and eradicate many of the undesirable habits and stereotypes of old, and I agree with much, if not all, of what you have to say. This is why I find it surprising when you say: “I believe the Geneva Conventions, which ban torture, should be upheld. It is a tough situation, I know, as many might argue that these particular suspects are not really prisoners of war.” Article 2.2 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment clearly states that: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
    This means that it does not matter whether the captured are considered POWs, enemy combatants, terrorists, or whatever else… You do end with “I’m leaning towards banning the use of torture all together” but I think you can do better than giving a qualified anti-torture stance. In my opinion, for whatever it is worth, this position dilutes much of your previous rhetoric of what you want for Jordan to be like. Maybe I misunderstood you, but you seem to want Jordanians to change so much that is wrong about their society, but it is OK for them to torture if they have to. That is simply inconsistent.

  4. well Scooby, in this post I was sharing my internal stuggle which eventually ended with condemning torture.
    My dilema stems from the fact that what if one suspect had some particualr information that can save thousands of lives and what if the clock was ticking.. what would you do in this case? That’s why it is a tough situation.
    If you read the post again, you would notice that I said it is NOT okay to torture.

  5. Natasha, I did acknowledge that you ended with “I’m leaning towards banning the use of torture all together,” and I understand that you say “I believe the Geneva Conventions, which ban torture, should be upheld.” However, my point is that when you say “it is a tough situation, I know, as many might argue that these particular suspects are not really prisoners of war,” you seem to leave the door open to torture people who are not classified as prisoners of war.
    All I’m saying is that you are always unequivocal when it comes to matters of human rights, however, here your internal struggle is clouding your vision as to what the Torture Convention demands: No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
    I was not saying that you are endorsing torture. All I said was that in light of your previous postings, especially about what you expect from Jordanians and where you would like to see them get to, what you said above seemed inconsistent.
    You are doing a great job with the Blog. Keep up the good work.

  6. Hi Scooby,
    First thanks for your nice words about my blog.
    In my post I was trying to present the counter-argument which I have been hearing a lot lately. It is the fact that these combatants do not represent any country as they are fighting for a mere ideology, thus Geneva Conventions might not apply here. It is a loop-hole that is currently being used by those supporting torture in these circumstances.
    I was merely trying to look at the argument and the counterargument. Eventually I took a stand.
    Maybe next time I will spare you the boring details of my internal struggle and go directly to the conclusion which is no to torture.

  7. Great post Natasha.
    Like you I am very bothered by this for two reasons
    1- The USA never doing the dirty work and sending it where it is ok. For example all the insustries have been moved from the USA to the third world, because it is cheaper of cource and there no environmental issues are respected or important, which in the USA industries have strict rules because of environmental issues. So instead of solving the problem we move it to other places where it is not an issue! the same happens with human rights… instead of torturing them ( because it is not allowed by Amnesty International) we send them to other places where it is ok!
    2- That Jordan actually accepts doing this work! why should we be associated with violating human rights?!!

  8. Jordan never tortured and is not and will not torture any human being. Why are thses alligations ?

  9. We knew all along Jordan is not a liberal western democracy. Government institutions have never been accountable to the Jordanian people.
    Jareer’s comments that “Jordan never tortured and is not and will not torture any human being” is science fiction. There is a key difference between loving a country and loving its regime. We all love Jordan but we are not morally responsible for actions of a government that we the citizens have no control over. Not the case in democracies were governments are ultimatly accountable to the people who choose their leaders.
    So Jareer, the best thing we can do is not to deny wrongdoings that everyone knows take place, but to distance ourselves from actions we have no control over, lest we end up either party to a cover up or in a small dark room, the former being a far more distasteful scenario than the latter.

  10. Torture must be banned at all times. When you leave a loop hole they will always claim ” a thousand lives might have been at stake.” Not only that, is a question of hypocrisy. How many people have had issue with Israel because of legal torture there?
    When torture becomes mainstream we have all lost the battle.

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