Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Andrew Sullivan notes just how far the right has fallen since the days of their constantly-evoked hero, Ronald Reagan. Reagan fought for the passage of the U.N. Convention on Torture and made the U.S. a signatory to it in 1984. And not only did he push for each country to prosecute anyone in their leadership that engages in torture, he specifically called for the use of universal jurisdiction to prosecute leaders in other countries who do so. Here’s what he said when he signed the treaty:

“The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called ‘universal jurisdiction.’ Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”

And here’s what the convention itself says about what is and is not torture and what excuses cannot be used to justify doing it:

Article 1.

1. For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2.

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

In a mere 25 years, the Republican party has gone from championing the prosecution of torture to savaging anyone who dares to suggest such prosecutions. The next time some Bush/Cheney apologist invokes the memory of Ronald Reagan, remind them of this.