Sunday, July 24, 2005

Ethics Inaction 

"So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men."---Voltaire

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."---Wm. Pitt

From the June 17, 2005 letter from Physicians For Human Rights to William Winkenwerder, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs at the Department of Defense, on the occasion of the announcement of new guidelines for health professionals involved in or peripheral to interrogations:
"The UN Principles state that “It is a contravention of medical ethics for health personnel, particularly physicians, to be involved in any professional relationship with prisoners or detainees the purpose of which is not solely to evaluate, protect or improve their physical and mental health.”
We note, especially, that this ethical rule is absolute, and has nothing to do with the patient-physician relationship. The physician'’s professional status requires this ethical stance regardless of his relationship with the individual. This is especially important in the interrogation context, where physicians and other health personnel not involved in direct patient care are most susceptible to unethical involvement in abuses.
Rather than applying (your new Medical Program Principles and Procedures) to those “involved in any professional relationship with prisoners,” the new guidelines would apply only to personnel with “any provider-patient treatment relationship with detainees.” That rule allows physicians, psychologists and medics not directly involved in patient care to participate in interrogations and to inflict harm on patients. It means that health personnel can be assigned to assist interrogators, be present or monitor interrogations, review medical records of detainees for the purpose of assisting interrogations, and even – though we have no evidence that this has happened – engage in interrogations themselves. Indeed, it amounts to an invitation to do so."
The DoD's June 27 response to PHR's concerns was merely to rephrase the essence of its policy, with the reassurance that it would:
"...ensure clear separation of duties between personnel providing healthcare to detainees and behavioral science personnel consulting with interrogators".
In other words, let's keep our heads, people: the assurances of ethical treatment only apply to health professionals NOT involved in the torture and interrogation of detainees. Mengele wannabees everywhere cheered, no doubt.

_40174325_graner_ap220 In keeping with the spirit of this non-effort at reassuring the public of our government's ethics related to the treatment of its prisoners, earlier this week the DoD also refused to comply with a court order to release photos and videos related to the abuse of prisoners held abroad---no doubt to spare Americans further anguish over the prospect that we could be complicit in anything so incompatible with our self-image of Girl Scout rectitude.

And now we see Dick Cheney bringing those unmatchable intimidation tactics of his own to bear on Republican senators who have been trying to pass legislation that would at least make an attempt to safeguard against further abuses in the future:
"The legislation, which is still being drafted, includes provisions to bar the military from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross; prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees; and use only interrogation techniques authorized in a new Army field manual.
The three Republicans are John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John W. Warner of Virginia, the committee chairman. They have complained that the Pentagon has failed to hold senior officials and military officers responsible for the abuses that took place at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, and at other detention centers in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan."
McCain is also looking at including a provision to end extraordinary rendition. Granting access to the IRC? Prohibition of the same kind of treatment that would be found unconstitutional by an American court? Interrogations by the book? This stuff could hardly be less onerous, yet it shakes this corrupt and hateful administration down to its blood-soaked shoes. The very possibility that the Infant-in-Chief and his nanny might not be allowed to get their own way gives them the shivering fits. This is how the "We Don't Do Torture" president responds to the prospect of such restrictions:
"On Thursday, just before Mr. Cheney's meeting, the White House warned in a blunt statement that Senate approval of a Republican or Democratic amendment was likely to prompt Mr. Bush's top advisers to recommend he veto the measure."
I suppose while we're in the mode to bring Scott McClellan's words back to haunt him, it's worth ending with this, from his March 17 press briefing of this year:
"The President has made it very clear that we do not condone torture. He's made it very clear to the government that we do not torture. And the President does not believe we should export torture."
But just in case, they want to leave their options open.

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