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Will President Trump Extend The Disastrous 'War On Terror'?

14/11/2016 17:10 | Updated 15 November 2016
Joe Raedle via Getty Images

President Trump promises to bring back "a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding". Although he likes it "a lot," he does not "think it's tough enough." What the Spanish Inquisition called tormento del agua is, for Donald Trump, "minimal, minimal torture." As for Guantanámo, he is going to "load it up with bad dudes". He thinks it's just fine to extend the rules governing the Cuban legal black hole to American citizens - something at which President George W. Bush balked.

In other words, he wants to undo all the work that we at my organization Reprieve - and many others - have struggled to carry forward in the years since 9/11, and turn back the clock.

Human rights victories were surprisingly difficult under eight years of Obama, who failed to make any great effort to close Guantanámo. He released detainees at a far slower rate than his predecessor. He fought us at every turn to hide the horrors - including the still-secret videotapes of former Guantanámo detainees in the force feeding torture chair. And he battled to prevent federal courts from meaningfully evaluating their claims of innocence.

He permitted the CIA (which comes under his authority) to conduct a frenetic campaign to quash the Senate Torture report, even spying on elected senators. It was the first such investigation to refuse to speak to a single torture victim (including every person I have represented in the last 15 years of litigation over these ghastly secret prisons).

And yet, far worse than this, while President Obama claimed that he would end torture and secret prisons, and dispense with the language of the "War on Terror", what he actually did was substitute in a policy of assassinating people around the globe. This has been an ever expanding robotic war where a 'Squirter' is the name given to a target who runs away (and presumably soils himself) when a Predator drone appears overhead, and a 'Bugsplat' is what we call the bloody detritus after the Hellfire missile explodes.

Now, once a week, the great institution that is the White House hosts "Terror Tuesday", where the president sits down to a powerpoint presentation to decide who we will assassinate, with a thumbs down reminiscent of the Roman Coliseum. Rather than take steps to abolish an American death penalty that has become tainted by manifestly unfair trials, our Constitutional-law-professor-turned-President has installed a death penalty where we dispense with a trial altogether. Other countries have now followed suit.

Instead of kidnapping someone and rendering them half way around the world to a Guantanámo, America now assassinates them - based on the same flawed intelligence that has resulted, to date, in 739 (94.9%) of 779 Guantanámo prisoners being cleared of the allegation that they were the worst-of-the-worst terrorists in the world.

Assassination was declared illegal in 1758. Yet now President Obama has sown some dreadful seeds, and we will witness a bitter harvest. Trump favours assassination, and the woeful intelligence of Guantánamo will dictate who appears on his fickle Kill List.

The fact that we have reached this parlous position, largely without outrage, can be laid at the door of liberals, who have conspicuously failed to deliver the long brown envelope of home truths to our chosen, liberal president. It was easier to combat excess when President Bush was in the White House, because many across the political spectrum were willing to express their outrage.

It is time for humanitarians of any political stripe to coalesce on the march towards decency. If, today, we are inspired to do this, we can probably put our commitment down to the election of President Donald J. Trump.

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