I could never forget the suffering that I received
until the day that I die
--Chum Mey, tortured under Duch
If you want to be free, there is but one way:
It is to guarantee an equally full measure of liberty
to all your neighbors.
I say father, and you say pater,
I saw mother and you say mater
Pater, mater Uncle, auntie,
let's call the whole thing off
--Let's Call the Whole Thing Off,
George and Ira Gershwin
A torturer was sentenced this week (sorry, folks, but this isn't about Mssrs. Bush or Cheney.)
Warden Duch -- The Khmer Rouge’s top jailer -- "was sentenced to 30 years in prison for overseeing the 'shocking and heinous' murder and torture of more than 12,000 inmates at the genocidal Cambodian regime’s Tuol Sleng Prison" (Khmer Rouge Warden Sentenced to 30 Years for Cambodian Killing Fields).
"The verdict by the United Nations-backed tribunal on Kang Kek Ieu, better known as Duch, marks the first conviction in a 13-year effort to bring to book the leaders of a regime blamed for the deaths of a quarter of the population."
Though Duch is guilty, he was held for 16 years sans trial. This, too, is criminal behavior. No one should be held indefinitely without a fair and transparent trial. The United Nations has a Bill of Rights, yet Duch sits for 16 years without trial. The U.S. has a Constitution, yet it has held prisoners almost eight years on without a trial, all while emphasizing they are not POW's.
Why are only defendants from small, poor countries ever convicted by the United Nations? Why haven't any U.S. personnel been charged or tried for torture? Is it possible that wealthy countries like the U.S. will never be called to answer for torture executed during our Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©)?
Some will argue that nothing the U.S. has done has risen to the level of the genocides in Cambodia or World War II. The murder and torture of 12,000 may make the Bush/Cheney team seem like pikers, but how does one quantify torture and its punishment? Torture is an absolute, and piling it on does not render it any more despicable.
Torture and killing has happened in U.S. secret prisons, detention facilities and anywhere we have held prisoners. John Walker Lindh and Jose Padilla -- both U.S. citizens -- were tortured and imprisoned. Though torture is either a war crime or a Crime Against Humanity (the rubric is context-dependent) their torturers were given campaign medals and promotions.
The UN tried Duch and found him guilty of torture. His actions would have been war crimes if Duch had been an operative of an opposing Army. Since he wasn't, and his crimes took place within his country's borders, then they are crimes against humanity.
This topic is rarely discussed anymore but hopefully some day, maybe 35 years from now, we will see court actions addressing the torture policies of the U.S. system. (R.I.P. Charly Gittings; Long Live your Project to Enforce the Geneva Conventions [PEGC].) That we allowed allies to torture prisoners and that we delivered those prisoners for torture are also criminal offenses.
We like to think of ourselves as freedom-loving, but our actions would indicate otherwise.