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In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

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When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many r…

UK must play no role in Trump torture – Reprieve

President Donald Trump signs executive orders in the Oval Office.
President Donald Trump signs executive orders in the Oval Office.
The Prime Minister must ensure the UK plays no role in a revived US torture programme, human rights organization Reprieve has warned today, after President Trump said that he believes ‘torture works.’

Mrs May was questioned in Parliament yesterday ahead of a meeting with the President later this week, but did not say whether she would raise Britain’s opposition to torture during her trip.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson pointed to the UK’s torture policy – known as the ‘Consolidated Guidance’ – in response to questions from reporters. However, the Government recently scrapped statutory oversight of the policy, meaning there is no independent body tasked with ensuring it is applied.

The policy itself contains loopholes: it does not require the agencies to inform ministers when they know or expect Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CIDT) to take place. It also allows the agencies to continue working with torturers if they believe they can “mitigate risk” through “reliable reassurances.”

Mr Trump has said he intends to revive waterboarding “and a hell of a lot worse." In yesterday’s interview with ABC, the President reiterated his belief that torture “works”, and said he was “surprised” to find that his Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is “not a believer in torture.”

In 2014, the US Senate’s Intelligence and Security Select Committee issued a report on the Bush Administration’s use of torture. The Committee’s conclusion was that the use of torture was “not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.”

The British Government was subsequently forced to admit that it had sought redactions to material contained in the report which related to the UK, with then-Home Secretary Theresa May facing questions from the Home Affairs Committee on the matter.

In 2010, then-Prime Minister David Cameron established a judge-led, independent inquiry into British complicity in torture, but this was subsequently shelved and then scrapped altogether.

Commenting, Katie Taylor, a Deputy Director at Reprieve, said: “The use of torture by the US – with the help of allies including the UK – marked a shameful chapter in our recent past, and did nothing to make us safer. Ministers have pointed to the UK’s policy against torture – but the reality is that this policy is riddled with loopholes and lacks any independent oversight. Theresa May must make clear to President Trump that the UK will play no part in a revived torture programme – and she must strengthen the Government’s torture policy to guard against the mistakes of the past.”

Source: Reprieve, January 26, 2017. Reprieve is an international human rights organization.


Trump's Tough-Guy Talk on Torture Risks Real Lives


In an interview with his biographer Michael D’Antonio, Donald Trump explained that although he received a medical deferment rather than serving in the war in Vietnam, “I always felt that I was in the military.” This was, as D’Antonio reported in “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success,” because he spent his high-school years at a military-themed boarding school, not far from West Point.

Last Saturday, President Trump trumpeted his military expertise during a visit to the C.I.A.’s headquarters, in Langley, Virginia, where he praised his nominee to direct the C.I.A., Michael Pompeo, for being first in his class at West Point. Then he digressed, noting, “I know a lot about West Point. . . . Trust me, I’m, like, a smart person.”

One difference between serving in the military and being a pretend soldier at the New York Military Academy, where Trump proudly led mock drills in snappy faux military uniforms, is that, in the real thing, officers are drilled not just in marching formations but also in the laws of war. These include the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, which impose absolute, unconditional bans on torture and other forms of cruel and inhumane treatment of enemy combatants, categorizing such conduct, under any and all circumstances, as a war crime.

In an interview with ABC’s David Muir, made available on Wednesday, Trump gave a cursory nod to those laws. Asked if he wanted U.S. forces to use waterboarding, the President said that he would listen to his advisers, but that he wanted to do everything “within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally” to “fight fire with fire.” He told Muir, “I have spoken, as recently as twenty-four hours ago, with people at the highest level of intelligence, and I asked them the question: Does it work? Does torture work? And the answer was yes, absolutely.” He added, with emphasis, “Do I feel it works? Absolutely I feel it works.”

The interview came on the same day that several news organizations published a draft executive order that, if signed, would command the Trump Administration to review the possibility of reintroducing C.I.A.-run “black site” detention camps for terror suspects and the use of brutal interrogation techniques. These practices were used during the early years of the War on Terror, but were shut down after the Supreme Court declared them subject to prosecution. At the daily White House press briefing on Wednesday, Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, described the draft as “not a White House document.” Still, it was circulating through high levels of the government, and President Trump’s sentiments were clear.

As any military expert could tell Trump, torture only increases the danger that soldiers face. It produces false intelligence, increases the risk that captured soldiers will themselves be tortured, and undermines discipline and moral authority. This is a lesson that George Washington knew well. As a general in the Revolutionary War, he vowed that, unlike the British, who tortured their captives, this new country would distinguish itself by its humanity toward enemy combatants. 


Source: The New Yorker, Jane Mayer, January 25, 2017

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