Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel were private security contractors working in Iraq. They were employed in 2005 and 2006 by a company called Shield Group Security. At some point they became aware that the company was bribing Iraqi officials, and was engaging in illegal arms trafficking and other illegal activity. So Donald and Nathan did what any conscientious American would do. They reported what they had discovered to American officials in Iraq.
The next thing they knew, they were detained by U.S. military personnel, stripped of their belongings, handcuffed and fingerprinted, strip-searched and locked in a cage.
The BBC news reports,
They were then taken to Camp Cropper near Baghdad International Airport, where they experienced a nightmarish scene in which they were detained incommunicado, in solitary confinement, and subjected to physical and psychological torture for the duration of their imprisonment – Vance for three months and Ertel for six weeks…
The men claim they were deprived of sleep, food and water, held in extremely cold cells without warm clothing, and threatened with beatings.
They were ultimately released at the Baghdad airport and were never charged or designated security risks.
The men later sued former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, claiming that he created the policies that allowed them to be detained and tortured. The government challenged the suit, claiming immunity.
On August 8, 2011, a federal appeals court ruled that former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld had no immunity in the case.
“Plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts to show that Secretary Rumsfeld personally established the relevant policies that caused the alleged violations of their constitutional rights during detention,” the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Chicago, ruled in a 2-1 decision on Monday that upheld a decision by a lower US district court.
The court’s ruling is a welcome development, but it’s a miniscule step forward against a tide of violations of civil rights, torture and impunity. These two men are getting their day in court because they were American citizens and because their actions were noble. Therefore we look at the fact that they were tortured and we say, “How awful, they didn’t deserve that!”
But the truth is that no human being deserves to be tortured. Not an American accused of aiding the enemy, not an enemy combatant, no one. How many thousands of others have been tortured by American military forces, intelligence agencies and their clients? How many have been murdered in “extrajudicial killings”, how many have been quietly buried after dying in secret CIA-run prisons and other so-called “black sites”?
Are their lives worth less because they are not Americans? Is it acceptable to torture them because they are our political enemies?
Torture is inhuman. It has no place in this world. It must be ended, by all parties, under all circumstances, regardless of citizenship, regardless of circumstance.