Italian torture conviction to have no effect


A demonstration of waterboarding at Coney Island. [Creative Commons-licensed photo from the Flickr account of Salim Virji]

The New York Times reported this morning on the conviction of 23 Americans in a case involving the practice of rendition, “in which terrorism suspects are captured in one country and taken for questioning in another, presumably one more open to coercive interrogation techniques,” the Times explained. The criminals were tried in absentia.

I’ve been waiting for this for years. Most of them received 5-year prison sentences, and… wait a minute…

It seemed highly unlikely that anyone, Italian or American, would spend any time in jail.

Unbelievable. Not only does this conviction have no effect on those found guilty—it will have no effect on my sense that justice has failed. At least, justice had failed in Bush’s one-superpower world, which I’m not yet sure is gone under the new U.S. administration.

(The Italian government wants to maintain good relations with the U.S., so it refuses to even request that we send them our newly-criminal CIA personnel.)

I’ve written numerous times about how the world should prosecute CIA and Bush administration officials who allowed our country to torture in its interrogations. Rendition is but the precursor to such illegal and inhumane actions.

No one should be immune to prosecution in the case of torture, from the peons who did the torturing to CIA and executive branch middle management, all the way up to Alberto Gonzales, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush.

Not that I believe for a second our wimpy country would allow George W. Bush to serve jail time for such things as breaking the law. No, we love our pomp and circumstance as much as any nation, even those nations from which our forefathers fled, and with whom they went to war to allow us to do things like prosecute our president.

Knowing that limitation, I put forth another solution: convict G.W. as a matter of show, to merely demonstrate that we believe in our justice system. To demonstrate that we believe wrongs should be punished under the law and not swept under the rug.

And we certainly could—and should—lock up the middle management who didn’t stand up for human rights. Maybe even Gonzales.

Which brings me back around to the Italian trial. There’s no way our government will force 22 CIA and former-CIA employees, no matter what their rank, to fly to Italy and bunk down in its prison system for five years.

But I doubt I’m the only one who thinks our government should.

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