At 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, a delegation of seven UFPPC members met with staff of Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA 9th) and Norm Dicks (D-WA 6th), who between them represent most of Pierce County, Washington, at the offices of Rep. Smith on Port of Tacoma Road. -- Their purpose: 1) to press Congress to enact the McCain amendment; 2) to urge that a commission be established by Congress to investigate the abuse and torture scandals that have yet to be addressed adequately; 3) to insist that U.S. standards of treatement of detainees must be brought in line with the standards of the international community. -- More than a year ago, UFPPC met twice with Adam Smith on this issue, which continues to fester: the McCain amendment, passed 90-9 by the U.S. Senate on Oct. 6, is at risk of being eliminated or diluted in conference committee. -- Congressman Smith is well placed to exert influence on the torture issue, being a member of both the House Armed Services Committee (where he works on subcommittees for Tactical Air & Land Forces, Terrorism, and Unconventional Threats & Capabilities) and the House International Relations Committee (where he belongs to the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific), and Congressman Dicks, whose influence on national security issues is well known, is a member of the House-Senate conference committee that will determine the fate of the McCain amendment. -- Staffers Sean Egan and Tom Luce assured UFPPC that Reps. Smith and Dicks share UFPPC's concerns, but the delegation, which consisted of UFPPC members Kristi Nebel, Steve Nebel, Ted Nation, Burk Ketcham, Rob Crawford, Mark Jensen, and Catherine Scott, pressed for stronger action and more audible expression of these concerns. -- They go to the heart of the nation's soul and security, as is said in the following letter addressed to Reps. Smith and Dicks and conveyed to them by the delegation. -- The text of the letter is posted below....
UNITED FOR PEACE
OF PIERCE COUNTY
November 1, 2005
The Honorable Adam Smith
The Honorable Norm Dicks
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representatives Smith and Dicks:
As citizens of the United States and as members of UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY, we appreciate the opportunity to meet with Mr. Sean Egan and Mr. Tom Luce, your assistants, and to convey to you our concerns. Today, we appeal to you as a member of the United States House of Representatives to take action against the use of and justification of torture and abuse of persons in the custody of the United States government.
While torture is abhorrent in itself and stopping it needs no further justification, the present importance of stopping torture and investigating instances of torture that have taken place in recent years by those acting in the name of the nation transcends the wrongdoing itself. Torture, if it is allowed to stand, will be a sign of a dramatic and historic regression of American civilization -- an indicator that must not be neglected if we are to be true to our heritage as citizens of the United States. Our fundamental values are being undermined from within. The stakes are enormous, and their importance should be obvious to all. The matter is still urgent, even after all the publicity surrounding the Abu Ghraib scandal over the past eighteen months. Its urgency is shown by this fact: only yesterday Vice President Dick Cheney promoted to the position of his chief of staff and assistant to the president David S. Addington, a co-author of the infamous August 1, 2002, memorandum justifying torture.
The use of torture by the U.S. government is exacerbating relations with the Muslim world. The U.S. government has declared that it is engaged in a Global War on Terror. UFPPC questions the very notion of a war on terror. We agree with Jeffrey Record, professor at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, who said in an essay published in December by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College that the conflation of al Qaeda and Iraq into a monolithic threat is a strategic error of the first order, violating the fundamental strategic principles of discrimination and concentration. But this unnecessary, unwise, disastrous policy choice made in 2001 by our national leaders now risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, thanks in part to the nations embrace of torture, which has become a symbol of this nation in the minds of millions.
Torture, in fact, is ineffective. It is useful only as a tool of intimidation -- of terror, in fact -- not as a tool of interrogation. Torture is rejected by most professionals in the field of interrogation and intelligence. And torture is a crime, already forbidden by U.S. law.
Furthermore, as the background to the McCain amendment makes clear, a policy condoning the use of torture is a betrayal of those who serve in our armed forces. It corrupts, abases, and degrades those who engage in it, and it impugns the honor of those who serve the nation. This was the burden of the letter addressed by Capt. Ian Fishback of the U.S. Armys 82nd Airborne Division to Senator John McCain on Sept. 16, 2005, and published in the Washington Post on Sept. 28, 2005. Capt. Fishback said that for seventeen months he tried to determine what specific standards governed the treatment of detainees by consulting [his] chain of command, but failed in that effort. He concluded his letter with these words: If we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession. I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is America. Once again, I strongly urge you to do justice to your men and women in uniform. Give them clear standards of conduct that reflect the ideals they risk their lives for. We agree with Capt. Fishback.
Since the McCain amendment was passed by the U.S. Senate on Oct. 6 by a vote of 90-9, the White House has been working to dilute it in the House-Senate conference committee, as the Washington Post reported on Oct. 25, 2005. Vice President Dick Cheney and his new pro-torture chief of staff, David Addington, are leading the charge. A Human Rights Watch report of Sept. 25, 2005, shows that the abuse and torture of detainees are ongoing problems in Iraq. Congress must act. Congress should have acted long ago. Congress has constitutional oversight responsibilities in this domain that have been neglected.
We appeal to you to do all you power to ensure 1) that the McCain amendment is enacted; 2) that those responsible for the present torture and abuse scandals be investigated by a commission established by Congress, as advocated by Human Rights Watch and by Bettina B. Plevan of the New York City Bar Association; and 3) that the United States government reaffirm its renunciation of all forms of torture and its acceptance of international standards for the treatment of persons in its custody.
In the strongest terms, we urge you to act. As one of the members of our delegation today, Prof. Robert Crawford of the University of Washington, Tacoma, said in an article entitled The Tarnish of Torture, published in the Seattle Times on Oct. 18, 2005: Both the soul and security of America are at stake.
We attach an October 20, 2005, statement adopted by UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY on the McCain amendment for your consideration.
United for Peace of Pierce County