« Previous Post | Next Post »

Guest Voices

Bush Should Apologize for Torture

By William Bache

ISTANBUL, Turkey - In the wake of Abu Ghraib, "extraordinary rendition" and Guantanamo, torture has become a stain on America's good name, something that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. This stain, which has especially harmed U.S. relations with the Muslim world, must be removed, with all those involved being held accountable for their actions.

The U.S. Congress needs to conduct a thorough investigation into crimes of torture authorized and carried out by U.S. officials, while governments worldwide should work together to prevent future abuses and encourage an environment of mutual respect for human rights.

Colonel Nick Rowe, famed as one of the only American prisoners of war (POWs) to escape from five years of imprisonment by the Vietnamese Communists, would be aghast at recent events. Years after his experience in Vietnam, he became a man with a mission, voluntarily accepting recall to active duty in 1981 to establish the U.S. Army Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Program. Himself a victim of torture, Rowe did his best to protect and prepare American fighting men for the horrors of war, but never would he have thought his program would become the model for the United State's "torture lite" campaign.

He designed his SERE course to enable American servicemen to survive isolation, torture and indoctrination by hostile countries or terrorists. Torture in the SERE course is limited to torture lite, which means the use of nakedness, extreme temperatures, stress positions, infliction of continuous high volume noise and sleep deprivation. This combination of torture lite techniques is designed to cause pain, mental disorientation and total collapse of the individual's will to resist.

Days and nights of continuous torture lite are enough to break anyone. It leaves physical, psychological, mental and sometimes spiritual scars. Torture lite is designed to tear asunder the spirit of individuals and render them willing collaborators with their tormentors.

Milt Bearden, a CIA officer who directed support operations for Afghan Mujahideen fighters resisting the Soviet occupation of their native land in the 1980s, stated that official U.S. policy during the administrations of three American presidents was that all sides in the Afghan conflict should treat their prisoners in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, in which signatories agree not to torture POWs and enemy civilians in armed conflicts.

World War II veterans, Vietnam veterans and active duty soldiers have also always opposed torture and inhumane treatment of captives. Why do the soldiers who suffered the horrors of war seem to know more about the need to preserve and defend the values of human dignity than policy makers? Probably because they know that once inhumane forms of warfare are found acceptable by the United States of America, itself a signatory to the Geneva Convention, American soldiers will be more likely to suffer torture and abuse if captured by terrorists.

The United States needs to learn from its soldiers. It also needs to recognize that asking forgiveness and making restitution to the victims of illegal policy is part of a necessary process to regain our stature as a moral nation governed by the rule of law.

In 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton traveled to Guatemala to extend to the people of that war-torn country his apology for 30 years of U.S. government support to the former military dictatorship. That dictatorship utilized death squads, torture, disappearances, secret prisons and ethnic cleansing to repress its own people. Clinton's action served to re-establish confidence in the Guatemalan people that America would no longer support repression in the region.

A similar apology by President George W. Bush to the innocent victims of the "war on terror" would go a long way towards reconciling illegal and immoral U.S. policies seen as "anti-Muslim" in public opinion surveys from Turkey to Indonesia. Such a gesture by President Bush would set the stage for the eventual reconciliation between America and the marginalized peoples of the Middle East and South Asia. Such a process would move forward the cause of global peace and justice, as well as isolate extremists of all varieties.

William Bache is a retired U.S. army officer and Vietnam veteran, and currently lives in Turkey. In 2006 he worked as the Deputy for Ethics at the Iraqi Center for Military Principles, Values and Leadership in Baghdad. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Email This Post | Del.icio.us | Digg | Facebook

Please e-mail PostGlobal if you'd like to receive an email notification when PostGlobal sends out a new question.

Comments (13)


I am a believer that civilized societies NEVER institute a policy allowing whole sale torture. In extraordinary cases (as the Bushies like to use to defend their actions) there is a logical rationale for torture, but these almost ludicrous examples have not been witnessed to date. The classic one being if someone either had or had knowledge of a nuclear weapon that was to be detonated in downtown Manhattan and the use of torture stood any chance of precluding such a detonation would it be acceptable. I can't speak for everyone, but it seems in this far fetched case the ends would justify the means. However, what this administration has done is take the improbable occurances and say if it's acceptable under these standards then it's also acceptable where we deem fit. I completely reject this lack of logic.

As I stated to open up this post civilized societies never authorize the whole sale use of torture as we've witnessed in the last 5 years by the United States. Since we have instituted these policies I'm sorry to say it can only mean we're no longer a civilized society. We can become one again by reversing our practices on interrogation, but until we do we're nothing more then the heathens we speak out against.


Thanks, Wılliam Bache.


Thanks, Wılliam Bache.

Kim Kemper:

I think this article about the U.S. Congress conducting thorough investigation into crimes of torture authorized by U.S. officials is valid. But I think that Congress needs to punish crimes being committed abroad.. There have been secret tests going on here in this country on United States civilians that need to be investigated and halted as well. I think the President needs to ivestigate these crimes personally and consider human rights to put them to a halt.

Kim Kemper:

I think this article about the U.S Congress needing to investigate U.S. officials who authorize torture is totall valid. Except they need to focus on what is going on in this country and not overseas. Not about the SERE, but about mentally and socially abuses going on in this country approved by government officials.If you don't know what I'm talking about this is about secret testing going on in the United States on american civilians. I think the President needs to halt civlian abuses.


Torture is a common activity in all OIC Nations.
More than Bush OIC Nations should apologize for their actions ..

Remember Be-headings ...
Remember Bodies being mutilated ..
Remember Terror bombings all around the world ..

There is nothing wrong if Bush authorizes torture to these inhuman beasts ..


William, I see your point, but this is not something Bush should apologize. It is being taken care of by the rulings of the US Supreme Court. Your concern seems to be outdated.

Roberto Flores:

Clinton's apology was the very least he could have done to a country ravaged by state-supported terrorism in Guatemala--much of the training having come from the School of the Americas (now known as Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation . . . a rose by any other name?!). In Bush's case, it is the U.S. who has directly propagated these untenable acts of torture. Bush has become the very thing he says he abhors, and thus stains our image internationally. Thanks to Bush, the USA is now a nation in search of its soul. At the very least Bush should apologize; at worse, he should be brought up on charges!

Natalie Galley:

Any American who lives abroad can see how negatively our country is viewed by others. Torture aside, even our health care system is viewed as "inhumane" by many. Going to a health center in the UK for the first time last week has helped to prove this fact to me. The U.S. government is more and more being seen as an oppressive entity who not only tortures others, but also in a way "tortures" its own citizens. We have to change this. It is our responsibility as Americans. The so-called "leader" of our country should take the first steps toward restoring our reputation, but it looks like we may have to wait until January of 2009 for this to happen.

Natalie Galley, UK (via Istanbul)

Bill Reagan:

I think this issue with tortue underscores the greater issue of executive over-reach which seems to have been so common under the Bush empire; another example of a sucker punch to civil liberties and moral standards as part of the bar room brawl that followed 9/11. Even Ashcroft seems to have stepped away from the trail of dubious legal finagling around use of torture as White House lawyers attempted to justify high crimes against humanity in the spirit of "the rules have changed".

Arguments for impeachment based on the prosecution of an illegal war aside, I think the issues we see today of both an over-reaching executive branch as well as an activist judiciary point to the greater problem of a spineless legislature. The body of elected law-makers who are supposed to most closely represent the "voice of the people" spend more time bickering in committee and calling special sessions to posture soundbites than they do passing meaningful laws (and repealing bad ones, e.g. the 1973 War Powers Resolution).

Hence through negligence this powerful collective ultimately aids and abets the single enemy to our free republic from within which is the trending threat toward imperialistic tyrrany. I don't let the Democrats off the hook either. Under Clinton, executive lust for power was just as extreme. This precedent has already taken such a hold in the cultural fabric of presidential expectations that I don't see it diminishing in the next administration or even after that until people realize they have the power to (hopefully still) reign it in. People want a Prez who is "going to do something", and in the parlance of today's politics that usually equates to spending more money to make the government machine bigger, broader and more visible. Calling Nanny 9-1-1!!

I just about cry every time I read the obit of a dead Iraq War soldier who is quoted as believing so firmly in the integrity of his mission to "keep us all safer over here, by taking the fight to the terrorists over there". The charges of torture against these characters from the Middle East need to be extended to the torture this administration has put the loved ones of thousands of dead servicemen through by brainwashing a volunteer military into believing the crock of crap that was force-fed on us all that Iraq needed to be invaded to disarm Saddam's WMDs and break the alleged ties his Baathist regime had with Al-Qaeda.

Afghanistan was a legitimate counter-strike. Iraq was a lie - an opportunistic chance to settle some old chicken-hawk scores. Iran is next and Congress is spending more time posturing over global warming and the ANWR than trying to curb interventionism out of control.

I've been elated since they caught Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March 2003 (before the Iraq War even started!) Last I checked there were due processes for the prosecution of such international war criminals. I can't fathom how the use of waterboarding (which was done on this guy) or some other torture tactic will help obtain any more data from these individuals than "conventional" means - in fact studies show quite the opposite occurs - they make up stuff just to stop the torment. Not to mention, the dubious legality of torture tactics will be just the technicality that allows real terrorists to go free if and when Congress calls for a real investigation into this issue and its perpetrators. And of course the bottom line being if we truly are a moral standard bearer in the world, then the way we mete out justice to even the worst of our enemies is a reflection of the very image of this nation we are supposed to love and defend. Let's not stoop to the inhumane level of our enemies.

Beverly Lewis:

My thanks to William Bache for his comments on the dramatic risk the US departure from the Geneva Conventions has created for citizens serving in the military, foreign service and other capacities where they could become victims of torture. A strong commitment to enforce the Geneva Conventions has always been a valuable first defense for military and civilians alike. Bush promised Americans a "New world Order". I fear that he has succeeded-where a captor might have thought twice before harming a US national, in absence of the rule of international law and the recent examples of the US, no outrage is unthinkable.

B. Lewis, Italy

Firat Fidan:

This article hits the nail on why the standing of the U.S. in the international community has been so severely damaged. Ignoring human rights should not go without being held accountable.


Those who are allegedly tortured in Guantanamo are members of a cult that believes the end justifies the means. Otherwise why would they be blowing up themselves if not to gain admission to Paradise?
Using their logic Mr. Bush is trying to protect his people from the wrath of those fanatics, and therefore he should be thanked by his people and not apologize to them.

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.