Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Legalization of Torture Act

Media and blogger analysis of the Warner-Graham-McCain "compromise" legislation on detainee interrogation and prosecution continues. Major points:

  • The legislation accords the least amount of legal protection to detainees whose connections to terrorist acts are the most tenuous, and the highest level of protection to high-profile masterminds like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. -- Adam Liptak in the New York Times
  • There is no "compromise" in this legislation; it authorizes the C.I.A. to do exactly what it was doing before (although very few people know what that is), and exactly what it wants to do in the future. --Glenn Greenwald, in Unclaimed Territory
  • Most of Congress will be voting on the proposed legislation without knowing which interrogation techniques have already been used; and without knowing which techniques would be prohibited or allowed under a rewritten War Crimes Act. -- Rick Klein, in the Boston Globe

Basically, the White House pulled a fast one, and the Republican sponsors of the alternate legislation allowed them to get away with it. Pres. Bush's supposed "compromise" of agreeing not to reinterpret Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is no compromise at all, because he can simply decide on his own which interrogation procedures are legal -- and potential plaintiffs are forbidden to use the Geneva Conventions in court as a source of rights; they are not even allowed to mention the Conventions. Or, as Josh Marshall put it, "... from what I [can] tell the torture compromise is that we agreed not to reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, only to continue violating them."

The Covered in Shame award goes to the Democrats in Congress -- especially those who continue to criticize the legislation while refraining from any commitment to oppose it:

A few liberal Democratic lawmakers attacked the bill yesterday, but none signaled all-out plans to try to kill it. "By using legal mumbo jumbo to obscure the fact that the CIA will continue to be allowed to use torture and will actually be insulated from legal liability for previous acts of torture, President Bush is proceeding ever further down the slippery slope that Colin Powell warned us will endanger American troops in the field by encouraging other countries to reinterpret the Geneva Conventions," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).

But will he stand up to Pres. Bush and vote against the legislation? If not, he's just a contemptible hypocrite and would be worthier of respect if he simply said he agrees with the legislation.

Last word to Tristero, who writes that the biggest winner after this legislation is passed (and of course it will be passed), is Osama bin Laden:

I don't think in his wildest dreams Osama bin Laden could have anticipated such a tremendous and rapid victory over America and its values as Bushn delivered. Yes, the destruction of Iraq and any day now, the fall of Iran and the consequent radicalization of millions of Muslims, the ruination of American prestige and influence, not to mention the vampirical drain on our economy: all that bin Laden joyfully anticipated. But for America to abandon all pretense of adherence to western law and morality, that was a pure gift from God to his obedient servant, Osama.

We can only hope that the rumors of OBL's death are not exaggerated, so that he will not get the chance to enjoy his victory over the descendents of Thomas Jefferson.

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