What Goes Around Comes Around

Last week the U.S. military denounced a Taliban video depicting captured American soldier U.S. Army Private Bowe Bergdahl. Using photographs of Bergdahl for “propaganda purposes is a violation of international law,” they said.

Even I had to laugh. What possible moral high ground is left to us after 8 years of Bush-Cheney, Abu-Ghraib, Guantanamo and Kandahar? And despite Mr. Obama’s promises to the contrary, torture tactics continue to be practiced at Guantanamo, as evidenced by the treatment of recently released Lakhdar Boumediene, an Algerian man held for 7 years.

One of the reasons for holding to international laws such as the Geneva Conventions is exactly for such situations as these: so you can preserve a moral high ground and not be laughed off the international stage.

According to a fascinating 2007 Atlantic article, the term enhanced interrogation (scharfte Vernehmung) is the precise term coined by the German Gestapo to describe third degree interrogation: including hypothermia, stress positions, and sleep deprivation. (The Gestapo had initially forbade the use of waterboarding.) In Norway in 1948 the U.S. prosecuted these tactics as war crimes, punishable by death. The German defense argued that the Norwegian resistance fighters who were tortured in this way fell outside the Geneva Conventions since they were not soldiers. (Congratulations. So the Bush Administration’s argument has precedent after all.) But the court did not buy it. Following WWII Japanese generals were also put to death for practicing waterboarding. What does Mr. Cheney get? $132,451 a year for life.

As for Private Bergdahl, at least there was no evidence of torture. Only barbarian nations do that. Who has the moral high ground now?

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