October 1st, 2004

I was chilled to the bone, last night, on reading Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s blog about a new bill in the house which has a section proposing to legalize “extraordinary rendition”. You can read Teresa’s thorough analysis of the meaning of this here. I feel the same sort of sick revulsion now, on reading about this, as I did when we decided as a nation to be the world’s bully and to rationalize pre-emptive strikes on other, weaker nations. The difference is that this bill, if passed, is a tool that can be used against the nation’s citizens. You or I could be imprisoned and deported to another country for torture. I cannot believe that anyone (except perhaps tyrants holding steadfast to power) can be made to feel safe through this strategy.

You will notice, if you read the comments on the blog entry, that the force trying to strike the extraordinary rendition clause from the proposed bill is miniscule. In a house of representatives with 435 members only 20 of them feel this is important enough to take a stand on. The 20 are Democrats, which I’m sure will lead people to assure me that this does in fact prove the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, but I beg to disagree. There are 205 Democrats in the House, so 20 is a little under 10 percent. You can’t tell me that I can judge a major party to be more ethical and just because 10 percent of its sitting members in the House aren’t morally bankrupt.

Still, this is something you can act upon. Regardless of party affiliation, surely no one in this country wants their representatives to ok the torture of their friends, neighbors, and relatives on distant shores. If you don’t want your representative agreeing to torture in your name, write to them and tell them so. There are sample letters in the comments of TNH’s aforementioned blog entry.

Here is the text of the letter I sent to my representative this morning, cobbled from examples with a bit of my own language thrown in. Feel free to steal or copy any of it as you feel is appropriate.

Dear Honorable Charles W. Pickering –

I am writing you to encourage you to vote against Section 3032 and 3033 of H.R. 10, the “9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act of 2004”. These sections would attempt to legalize extraordinary rendition, the outsourcing of torture to other countries. I’m absolutely stunned that the House would consider making torture legal. The provision would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue new regulations to exclude from the protection of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, any suspected terrorist.

Representative Edward Markey, from Massachusetts, is planning on offering an amendment to H.R. 10 that would replace those sections and take a strong stand against extraordinary rendition. I hope that you will vote to support Congressman Markey’s amendment to this bill, to remove the shocking and unAmerican provision making torture legal, or, if an amendment decisively rejecting torture is not included in the bill, to vote to defeat it. This is not, as I see it, a partisan issue. There is no place in any aspect of our democracy (or the defense of it) for torture.

I look forward to hearing back from you. Thank you for your time,

You can make your voice heard, and if you do not bother to, your elected representative will take your silence for assent.

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