The Lost Bearings

Edited by Louis Standish

After the memos issued? by the American Department of Justice that approved of the enhanced questioning methods used against the CIA inmates, a report from the Senatorial Commission of the Armed Forces published on Wednesday is once more causing a feeling of disgust. The report goes over the origins of those methods and explains how their use rapidly grew everywhere the Americans detained some people suspected of terrorism.

The concerned methods were derived from those the Chinese used during the Korean War. After September 11th, 2001, the epartment of Defense and the CIA requested from the team that was in charge of preparing the American soldiers for an eventual capture, that they train their members to utilize these enemy methods.

Even though they were in the first place reserved for al-Qaida leaders who were detained by the CIA in its secret prisons, these methods spread to Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq, and have been used on a large scale until the Abu Ghraib scandal happened. The permission granted by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld indeed implied that “physical or degrading pressures formed an appropriate treatment against the people who are detained by the United States. A kind of erosion of the standards followed, demanding for some prisoners to be treated humanely,” the commission concludes.

The people who wondered if, regarding the terrorist threats, democracies shouldn’t resign themselves to use some forms of torture in the hope of obtaining some crucial pieces of information, those people now have an answer to their questions: once the feet are set on this slippery slope, trying to stop is hard. President Obama summed it up: “We have lost our moral bearings.”

Appealing to torture causes damages to democracies that are more important and more lasting than any piece of information they could get out of prisoners. It becomes especially impossible for them to denounce the acts of torture that are committed by other countries. For between the enhanced interrogations that took place in the American jails and the bad treatments that were inflicted in some dictatorial jails, it’s just a matter of degree, not a matter of nature.

In our country, the Harper government persists? in leaving the young Canadian Omar Khadr in his cell at Guantanamo. On Thursday, a judge working for the federal court gave the order in Ottawa to intercede with the American authorities so that they would allow Khadr’s repatriation. The governor declared yesterday that he is appealing the sentence. According to the Prime Minister, “the facts haven’t changed.”

Facts haven’t changed? Come on! Mr. Obama has announced Guantanamo’s closure and suspended the procedures against the base’s inmates. Washington admits that these inmates were tortured. And the federal court claims that Ottawa violates the Canadian Charter of the Rights as it doesn’t give a damn about it.

The attitude of the conservative government in this case remains incomprehensible and revolting. We can’t help asking ourselves if Mr. Harper himself hasn’t lost his moral bearings.

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