The protection of fundamental human rights was a foundation stone in the establishment of the United States. In February 2008, US Vice President Dick Cheney said, “[w]e do not torture – it’s against our laws and against our values.” President George W. Bush had used the same words a year and a half earlier when he admitted publicly for the first time that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been operating a program of secret detention in various places around the world.
The USA has now effectively admitted to being a state that condones torture – one that has used torture and reserves the right to do so again. Its response to revelations of torture and other ill-treatment has been at best inadequate. At worst the government is facilitating impunity for crimes under international law.
A black eye, certainly. Have the letter and the spirit of the laws on due process and human rights been violated? Clearly, these abuses have occurred. However, as Lincoln said, this country is the world’s last best hope.