Saturday, November 3, 2007

Nietzsche, Class Racism and the Fantasies of Europe

PEN to Senate: 'insist on a clear, unequivocal renunciation of the use of torture'

October 31, 2007: Letter to Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee
 
Dear Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee,

We are writing on behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, and on behalf of our literary and journalistic colleagues around the world—many of whom practice their professions shadowed by regimes that routinely violate international prohibitions against torture—to implore you to insist on a clear, unequivocal renunciation of the use of torture and cruel and inhumane treatment by the United States as a precondition to the confirmation of Michael B. Mukasey to serve as attorney general of the United States.

Like many other human rights organizations, we are extremely disturbed by Judge Mukasey’s failure to acknowledge that waterboarding is a form of torture and by his apparent endorsement of the administration’s position that the President can authorize individuals to violate domestic and international laws, including prohibitions against torture and cruel and inhumane punishment. While the legal precariousness of these positions should be all too evident, we would remind the Committee that the international prohibition against torture in particular is a peremptory, jus cogens norm that cannot be abrogated under any circumstances.

That the United States has in fact abrogated that norm is now graphically and inarguably clear to the world. It will only further damage our international standing to endorse the appointment of Judge Mukasey or anyone else who fails to call torture by its name, renounce the mistreatment of detainees, or reject the legal arguments by which the Administration has sought, impermissibly, to justify these well-documented violations.

It will also undermine the efforts of—and in some cases even directly imperil—colleagues of ours who are struggling to end the scourge of torture and cruel and inhumane treatment in their countries. At PEN, we have seen increasing evidence that the behavior of the United States is posing new dangers for human rights champions around the world. In Tunisia, for example, lawyer and human rights activist Mohammed Abbou was arrested on March 1, 2005 for publishing an article comparing the torture inflicted routinely on prisoners in Tunisia to abuses carried out by U.S. soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison for “having published information that would disturb public order” and for “insulting the judiciary” and served fourteen months before international pressure led to his release this past summer.

Congress, which ratified the Convention Against Torture, has not done enough to end the abuse of detainees and eliminate the ambiguity in current U.S. policies on torture and cruel and inhumane treatment, and it further clouded the issue by including a wholly unjustifiable immunity provision in the Military Commissions Act last year. The attorney general confirmation process offers an important opportunity to make our country’s position clear. It is right to demand that Judge Mukasey clarify his remarks, and it is imperative that the Senate approve his nomination only if he rejects the Administration’s embrace of abusive practices and its flawed and dangerous legal rationales.

Sincerely,

Francine Prose
President
PEN American Center

Larry Siems
Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs
PEN American Center
 
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Sending his cancer a signal

John Kanzius, sorely weakened by leukemia treatments, drew on his lifetime of working with radio waves to devise a machine that targets cancer cells. The miracle: It works.
 
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Google
 

image from http://www.spitting-image.net

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