World's democracies need to stand against torture

December 31, 2009

There's a significant connection between two articles in The Sun on Dec. 30. "Museum will put Chile's tortured past on display" describes that nation's struggle to come to terms with the Pinochet regime's assault on both persons and the rule of law decades ago. Susan Goering's "'Gitmo North'? No thanks" points to the Obama administration's disappointingly feeble, evasive and very tardy attempts to put into practice the inaugural promise of January 2009 - the crucial promise to restore the rule of law in the U.S.

As far as I can tell, the only nation thus far that has dealt decisively with a reign of torture was Greece, which promptly put on trial and convicted both the highest-level military and political leaders of the 1967-1974 junta regime and some of the most cruel torturers. Public opinion in Greece strongly condemned the abuses, and that disapproval has held up over the years.

In contrast, none of the "great democracies" - the nations continually trumpeting their adherence to the rule of law - has ever faced up to its systematic use of torture, condoned and often directed by leaders at the highest level: not France in Algeria, not Great Britain in Ireland, not the U.S. in Vietnam, not Israel in the occupied territories. No wonder the scourge of torture continues to infect two-thirds or more of the nations on the planet, despite all the laws and treaties prohibiting it, and the deceitful, self-righteous declarations of the very persons who order it. And despite the fact that torture has always been an immoral and illegitimate device to intimidate and control "others," never an effective means of serving any legitimate purpose, for either criminal or military interrogations. Joe Morton, Towson

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