The Real Reagan vs Today’s Conservatives on Torture

I have written many times about the differences between the real Ronald Reagan and St. Ronald the Magnificent, the Reagan that exists only in the imagination of conservatives and Republicans. Another perfect example, as I’ve cited before, is the real Reagan’s view on torture. He helped push through the UN Convention Against Torture. From his signing statement on the ratification of that treaty:

“The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of [this] Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called ‘universal jurisdiction.’ Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”

That treaty also says:

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

So those conservatives and Republicans blowing a gasket over the release of the torture report are doing so in the face of the man they continually call a hero and invoke as the One True Conservative. They throw a fit at even acknowledging that we tortured anyone, much less prosecuting those responsible for it as Reagan’s treaty demanded.

"Yep. Principally raking in a nice fat paycheck for hauling the party line."

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  • John Pieret

    No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

    Yeah, but that was when we were attacking brown people around the world, instead of them attacking us, and when the exceptional circumstances and public emergencies were someplace else and not here in the USA, USA, USA!.

    St. Ronnie would have performed a miracle and made the treaty disappear … oh, wait!

  • Artor

    …as Reagan’s treaty demanded</strike demands.

    Still does demand it. Highest law of the land, and all that.

  • Artor

    Oops. Html tag fail.

  • http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com SC (Salty Current), OM

    The only time a US president will sign a human rights instrument is when they’re almost entirely assured it won’t be meaningfully applied to the US. (The book Eyes Off the Prize tells how postwar human rights instruments and the UN were gutted by those who feared they could entail human rights for black people in the US.) Reagan must have felt that despite the fact that the School of the Americas trained torturers and the US put in place and supported some of the most torturing regimes of the era in Central and South America,* the US government could always avoid having to face any real consequences. And in this, he was right.

    *Torture, Killing and Disappearance in the Southern Cone Countries in the ’80s

    During the period of military dictatorships in the Southern Cone nations of South America, the US – particularly under Reagan – supported regimes such as Argentina and Chile, which had the two highest numbers of disappeared individuals, tortured dissenters and those killed. More than 30,000 were disappeared in Argentina by the military, tortured and presumed killed (some of them dropped alive – while drugged – from planes and helicopters into the Rio De La Plata between Argentina and Uruguay, bound with weights on their legs).

    In Chile where a minimum of 3,000 disappeared (los desaparecidos), the “National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture Report,” in 2004, confirmed a minimum of 35,000 tortured in Chile after the Allende overthrow, which some critics of the commission argue is a low-ball estimate.

    During the period of the US-backed Operation Condor, figures conforming to the UN definition of torture put the number as high as 300,000 or more tortured in the Southern Cone nations overall, under the brutal military regimes of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay, among other nations that carried out gestapo-like torture and elimination of persons deemed a threat to the state.

  • Michael Heath

    Ronald Reagan:

    The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called ‘universal jurisdiction.’

    Given the way conservatives throw around “regime”, I had a Beevis and Butthead moment reading President Reagan using the word.

    “[I]nternational cooperation” and ‘universal jurisdiction’ are also phrases now considered garlic to modern day conservative vampires.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1450177278 phillipbrown

    The one question that should be asked of those defending the CIA practices is:

    “Would you accept the same treatment of American citizens by a foreign power?”

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Under Reagan the CIA supported the Contra’s terror campaigns, including developing torture manuals for them (I guess they were out of date so the Bushies had to spend $80mm hiring psychologists to develop new ones!) The term used in those days, for torture, was “human resources exploitation” There was the infamous Project X, run out of Fort Huachuca, which developed training materials, and did training, in counter-insurgency for allied countries. Lots of shitbags in human skin learned their bloody trade thanks to Project X.

    So, when Reagan said “torture is bad” what he meant was “torture I get caught promoting, is bad.”

    By the way, the bureaucrat who oversaw the dismantling of Project X was Dick Cheney.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    “Would you accept the same treatment of American citizens by a foreign power?”

    Of course they would. As long as it wasn’t anyone important or wealthy.

    I mean, look at the way they sent in a special forces team in Yemen, and blew everyone’s asses away, “oops sorry about the hostages, guys!” (Wanna bet those hostages were killed by friendly fire and not their captors?)

  • http://zenoferox.blogspot.com/ Zeno

    “Would you accept the same treatment of American citizens by a foreign power?”

    Well, of course not! That’s because we’re the good guys. (See how simple it is?)

  • dingojack

    Zeno — “Well, of course not! That’s because we’re the awesomest good guys evaar. (See how simple it is?)”

    FIFY. :)

    Dingo

  • http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com SC (Salty Current), OM

    Of course they would. As long as it wasn’t anyone important or wealthy.

    Sometimes they’ll even help out.

  • caseloweraz

    Philipbrown: The one question that should be asked of those defending the CIA practices is:

    “Would you accept the same treatment of American citizens by a foreign power?”

    That is the critical question. I know of one official who has answered it: Donald Rumsfeld. Philippe Sands wrote this on page 173 of his book Lawless World: “In April 2003, Donald Rumsfeld protested about the treatment of American prisoners of war, who had been filmed in the streets of Baghdad after their capture by Iraqi forces. He complained that Iraq was not complying with its obligations under Geneva Contention III, to protect prisoners from ‘public curiosity’. The media response was predictable.”

    It’s true that Rumsfeld has held his tongue in recent years. Back then his record is mixed. He reportedly offered to resign after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. But later came his note, scrawled on a memo, asking why Gitmo detainees could not be made to stand longer than four hours.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org Area Man

    He helped push through the UN Convention Against Torture.

    Well sure. After fighting in WW2, during which he won the Congressional Medal of Honor by single-handedly capturing the bridge at Remagen, he was captured by the Germans and tortured. So naturally he was an outspoken opponent of torture. Of course he later escaped and liberated several concentration camps on his way back to France, where he married a French actress and made one of his better films, Star Wars.