Friday, September 22, 2006


Mayhem and torture: Taking the scenic route

The "compromise" between the Republican Senators McCain, Lindsay and Warner and the Bush administration over the use of torture, military trials without evidence, prosecution of past torturers and who knows what else was announced yesterday with great fanfare. It's impossible to say exactly what's in the agreement because the Republicans haven't released the details, which should give us a clue what it feels like to be sentenced without seeing the evidence.

The refusal to provide details not only stymies criticism of what is most certainly an awful agreement, but reflects, I suspect, that Republicans aren't quite as in tune to each other as they would like to suggest. For instance, Duncan Hunter, Republican Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a critical deal maker on the House side, is still sputtering and harrumphing. He wants trials with secret evidence and the whole nine yards requested by the Bush administration and hasn't yet gotten over his disappointment.

I suggested last week that it is not the administration's positions that human rights advocates should fear but the "compromise" itself. There are already enough details to know that it was the values of human fairness, decency and dignity that were sacrificed for the appearance of Republican unity. Also not surprisingly, the proposed legislation includes a get-out-of-jail-free card for the Bush administration and the CIA for whatever violations of the War Crimes Act they've already committed.

Clarification of torture methods

As you know, President Bush is all about clarity. As he said at a recent press conference,

... Common Article III [of the Geneva Convention] says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It's very vague. What does that mean, "outrages upon human dignity"? That's a statement that is wide open to interpretation. And what I'm proposing is that there be clarity in the law so that our professionals will have no doubt that that which they are doing is legal.

So Brian Knowlton opens his story of the compromise with—

President Bush and three Republican senators said this afternoon that they had reached an agreement on legislation to clarify which interrogation techniques can be used against terror suspects and to establish trial procedures for those in military custody.

I'm glad they've cleared it up. Rick Klein fills us in with the details —

The compromise — to uphold the Geneva Conventions but instead specify which acts are illegal under the War Crimes Act and implicitly approve others — leaves open the question of what techniques President Bush will authorize.

He said the president will issue an executive order outlining "standards and regulations" governing interrogations, but said it will not mention specific methods because that would allow terrorists to train for ways to frustrate those methods.

How's that for clarity?

And the final score?

R. Jeffrey Smith and Charles Babington offer the best summary of the outcome.

A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in an interview that Bush essentially got what he asked for in a different formulation that allows both sides to maintain that their concerns were addressed. "We kind of take the scenic route, but we get there," the official said.

Expect no resistance from the Democrats. At this point the only hope is that the remaining details of the "compromise" will remain so contentious among Republican Congressional leaders that there won't be time to pass a bill before Congress adjourns. That is my hope but not my expectation.

Previous post
Torture and kangaroo courts near approval by Congress (9/12/06)


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