A stain that water will not wash off

Waterboarding and other “enhanced” interrogation techniques have been saved!

On Saturday – in a move anticipated and feared by many observers – outgoing US President George W Bush bravely stepped in to preserve the CIA’s right to use interrogation methods outlawed in the US’s own Field Army Manual.

The bill that would have meant that the CIA had one arm tied behind its back when dealing with “terrorists” was dead. America could breathe more easily again.

Or not. Now we have one of the world’s best equipped intelligence agencies able to torture anyone it gets its hands on without fearing – distant prospect already – prosecution down the line. People like a Canadian telecoms worker Maher Arar who was picked up by the US at JFK airport in 2002 and subjected to an exclusive “rendition” flight and 10 months of imprisonment and torture (at the hands of the Syrians on this occasion).

And it’s not just waterboarding (famously belittled as just a “dunk” in water by Vice-President Dick Cheney in a radio interview) that’s been “saved” for America. It’s the secret “black site” prison system – and therefore the spider’s web of rendition flights that keep the secret prisons stocked with fresh subjects for interrogation.

Partial drowning, vicious ill-treatment and a ruthless unaccountable detention system. Sounds like something from a WWII Japanese POW camp (it was: read this survivor’s moving account), not a 21st-century democracy upholding values of liberty, freedom and justice.

In short: Saturday 7 March 2008 was a shameful day in recent American history (septicisle’s pithy post says it all in eight words). It’s one that I know my American friends will (sadly) find unsurprising but distressing nonetheless.

Campaign against this stain on America (a fantastic country that doesn’t deserve this) here. Time to move on…

Later this week Amnesty’s got new reports coming out on Iraq “five years on”, battered women in Britain denied entry to refuges and (back to Bush) a report on rendition flights.

Yes, another action-packed week ahead. Read about them – and whatever else catches our eye – in this blog.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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