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Polymerase chain reaction is a cornerstone of molecular biology research. Using short pieces of single-stranded DNA called primers the previously invisible becomes tangible.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Politics: Perpetual War, Welcome to the Jungle

I read a DailyKos diary about torture recently but can’t seem to track down the link. It started with a well-known fable:

A man is propositioning a woman he just met at a bar. He says, “I’ll give you a million dollars to sleep with me.”

The woman thinks for a moment then consents. A million dollars would allow her to quit the job she hates, pay for graduate school, payoff her mom and dad’s mortgage and afford her the time to volunteer at the hospital. The two get up to leave. The man takes a dollar bill out of his wallet and places it in the woman’s hand.

“What’s that for,” the woman asked?
“We’ve already established what you are, I’m just negotiating the price.”

Torture apologists will often counter critics by asking, “Would you have condoned torture if it could have led to information that would have prevented 9/11?

Not even considering claims by FBI and CIA interrogators that torture lowers the possibility of getting truthful information, one who values human rights and the rule of law must categorically say no to torture. In Outsourcing Torture, an article set to appear in The New Yorker on Monday, Jane Mayer describes the slippery slope on which our country slides.

The Bush Administration, however, has argued that the threat posed by stateless terrorists who draw no distinction between military and civilian targets is so dire that it requires tough new rules of engagement. This shift in perspective, labeled the New Paradigm in a memo written by Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, “places a high premium on . . . the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians,” giving less weight to the rights of suspects. It also questions many international laws of war. Five days after Al Qaeda’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Vice-President Dick Cheney, reflecting the new outlook, argued, on “Meet the Press,” that the government needed to “work through, sort of, the dark side.” Cheney went on, “A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in. And so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”

Vice President Cheney’s “any means” appears to include sending suspects to Egypt for mummifying in duct tape and electrifying genitals and to Uzbekistan for boiling body parts.

The “extraordinary rendition program” has morphed from sending convicted terrorists to states supporting torture, to sending suspected “illegal enemy combatants” to the same places. And now reports are that we’ve dispensed with other states and set up our own shop at Guantanamo.

The article ends with the story of Nadja Dizdarevic and her husband, Hadj Boudella. Mr. Boudella was arrested in a dragnet by Bosnian authorities in October of 2001. He was found not guilty of any crime and ordered released from prison. On the day of his release right in front of the prison, Boudella was abducted by unidentified masked men. Six days later his wife was informed that he had been sent to Guantanamo. Three years later, despite Bush Administration protests, Boudella was granted a hearing with a military tribunal. His innocent plea was rejected as have 387 of the 393 cases that have come before this tribunal. His lawyers, in response to a letter from Dizdarevic, commented:

As a society, we haven’t figured out what the rough rules are yet,” he said. “There are hardly any rules for illegal enemy combatants. It’s the law of the jungle. And right now we happen to be the strongest animal.”

Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Attorney General Gonzales and others in this administration, torture is not an American value.

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