Torture and Genocide

30 01 2012

One of the best, most compelling books I have read is Two Souls Indivisible: The Friendship that Saved Two POWs in Vietnam.  You can see a description of it here: http://www.amazon.com/Two-Souls-Indivisible-Friendship-Vietnam/dp/0618273484.

I had the honor of meeting Porter Halyburton, who signed my book with tremendous sincerity and thoughtfulness.  Shaking his hand will remain most memorable.  One other person I had the honor of shaking hands with many years ago was Dith Pran, the person on whom the protagonist in the story, “The Killing Fields,” was based.

Both men suffered unspeakable horrors.  If you want to know why torture is so reprehensible, read the book.  If you haven’t seen the movie “The Killing Fields,” about the genocide in Cambodia, you should.  If you haven’t watched “Hotel Rwanda,” you should.

The next time there is a heated debate about what constitutes torture, think about the book and the bone-chilling descriptions of what Porter Halyburton and Fred Cherry endured in Vietnam.  We can add Senator John McCain to that roster.  This book should be required reading for all the presidential candidates.  Then, maybe they will think twice about being so nonchalant about the issue of torture.

NOTE:  Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.

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Human Rights Laws Apply to Everyone

27 01 2012

Troubling reports are coming out of the Middle East and North Africa about detention and torture and killings of various groups and individuals.  Nearly a year ago, the international community approved NATO’s no-fly zone in Libya on the basis of the “Responsibility to Protect” civilians from violence (known as the R2P mandate).

Now, we are hearing reports of detention, torture, and in some cases deaths of alleged pro-Qaddafi loyalists.  According to a report posted on the Shabab Libya (Libyan Youth Movement) website, entitled “Canada Blasts Libya over Torture Reports” –

“Amnesty International said several detainees have died after being subjected to torture in recent weeks and months, and cited wide-spread, ill-treatment of Gadhafi loyalists.

Doctors Without Borders said it was pulling out of the city of Misrata because some detainees were brought for care only to make them fit for further interrogation…

‘There’s torture, extrajudicial executions, rape of both men and women,’ Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told The Associated Press.

‘Something has to be done immediately to assist the authorities for the state to take control of these detention centers.’

This is a terrible blemish on the Libyan interim government, although some would argue that the blemish actually appeared with the manner in which Colonel Qaddafi was abused and killed.  As bad as he was, and despite all the blood on his hands, it was imperative for the Libyan rebels to resist the temptation to stoop to his level of gross barbarity.

No doubt there is deep anger and thirst for revenge in the region, including in Syria, after an exceptionally bloody week there.  However, in the long run, it would be counterproductive for the very groups who have sought freedom and justice to resort to the same tactics of torture, abuse, and extrajudicial detentions and sentencing, especially in a post-regime change context.  Ultimately, they will lose their moral legitimacy, as they will have blurred the lines between themselves and the tyrannical regimes they have been pitted against.  Amnesty International and Doctors without Borders did the right thing.  Everyone must be held under scrutiny, not just the regimes.  No one is above the principles and laws of human rights.

NOTE:  Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.