Friday, December 28, 2007

Another Principled JAG Officer Resigns Over Bush Torture Policy

Lieutenant Commander Andrew Williams resigned his commission and ended his service as an officer in the Judge Advocate General's Corps because of this Administrations torture policies. In a letter to the Peninsula Gateway explaining his decision, Williams said

There was a time when I served with pride, knowing that by serving with the finest men and women in the country, we were part of an organization whose core values required us to “do the right thing,” and that we were far different from the Soviet Union and its gulags, the Vietcong with their torture camps and a society of surveillance and informers like Nazi Germany.

We were part of the shining light on the hill who didn’t do those things. Sadly, no more.

According to an article in the Peninsula Gateway Williams began his service in 1991 and served aboard the Carrier Nimitz before becoming a reserve officer in 1995. His decision did not come suddenly, but, for him, was finally compelled by the testimony of General Thomas Hartmann, the head of the Military Commissions, who refused to condemn water torture. Specifically, Hartmann refused to say that an enemy who subjected U.S. troops to the practice should be prosecuted for that crimes.

This incredible revelation came out in a Senate Hearing with this exchange between Hartmann and Lindsey Graham,

GRAHAM: You mean you’re not equipped to give a legal opinion as to whether or not Iranian military waterboarding, secret security agents waterboarding downed airmen is a violation of the Geneva Convention?

HARTMANN: I am not prepared to answer that question, Senator.

While the history of this torture and past prosecutions has been detailed before, this is how it was summarized by Commander Williams

Thank you, General Hartmann, for finally admitting the United States is now part of a long tradition of torturers going back to the Inquisition.

In the middle ages, the Inquisition called waterboarding “toca” and used it with great success. In colonial times, it was used by the Dutch East India Company during the Amboyna Massacre of 1623.

Waterboarding was used by the Nazi Gestapo and the feared Japanese Kempeitai. In World War II, our grandfathers had the wisdom to convict Japanese Officer Yukio Asano of waterboarding and other torture practices in 1947, giving him 15 years hard labor.

Waterboarding was practiced by the Khmer Rouge at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. Most recently, the U.S. Army court martialed a soldier for the practice in 1968 during the Vietnam conflict.

He concluded by saying,

General Hartmann, following orders was not an excuse for anyone put on trial in Nuremberg, and it will not be an excuse for you or your superiors, either.

We all know why the minions in Bushco cannot admit that waterboarding is torture. They have sanctioned this and other forms of torture and know they can be prosecuted for their actions. That is the only reason why clowns like Hartmann get up and make fools of themselves by denying the obvious. That is why they have invented terms like "harsh" and "enhanced" interrogation techniques. They think this Orwellian speak will change the underlying fact that they have broken the law. Even Lindsey Graham, that on and off torture gadfly, has their number on this issue. Speaking about water boarding,

Sen. Graham, a former military judge advocate, has said before that someone doesn’t “have to have a lot of knowledge about the law to understand this technique violates Geneva Convention Common Article Three.”

This sorry episode in American history will come to an end, of that I am sure. I suspect we will not see prosecutions and certainly not of the high officials going up to Bush who authorized this criminal activity. But I do think we will get an accounting. Our dirty laundry must be aired and our nation must resolve never to do this again. There is no defense of this country at the expense of the Constitution. The Constitution is who we are. The moment we forget that we have lost our national soul, the one thing that is worth defending.

As we await the hoped for day of reckoning, we should salute courageous JAG officers like Commander Williams who are refusing to accept these abuses on their watch.

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