Friday, September 22, 2006

Republican "renegades" give in to Bush on torture

By Nancy Jane Moore

[corrected on 9/24/06 at 7:45 PM]

So apparently the supposedly high-minded former military Republican senators caved to Bush and we're going to end up legalizing torture.

Or so Dan Froomkin says in a pulls-no-punches column on Writes Froomkin:
The "compromise"? The Republican senators essentially agreed to look the other way.
Froomkin challenges the press to actually report on this issue:
Members of the traditional press were paying scant attention to the issue of state-sanctioned torture until a rift appeared within the Republican party itself. That, in Washington, qualifies as high drama.

And now that the rift has been papered over, most reporters' tendencies will be to cover the issue mostly from the angle of its effectiveness as a political cudgel in the mid-term elections.

But the American public deserves to hear a full and open debate on this important moral issue. And if Congress won't host it, then it's up to the Fourth Estate to rise to the challenge.
Froomkin goes on to list some specific avenues for reporters to follow up:
Here's a question reporters should be asking: If, as [Ron] Suskind has alleged, the administration is aware that those harsh CIA interrogation tactics don't really work -- and no one is currently in CIA detention anyway -- then why is this such an important issue for the White House? One possible answer: That this has nothing to do with the future; that it's about giving them cover for their actions in the past.

Here's another question reporters should be asking: Have the senators been assured that Vice President Cheney won't get Bush to attach a "signing statement" to this bill, asserting his inherent powers, as he did the last time he signed torture legislation?

Finally, as the White House gears up to use detainee policy as a political issue, it is incumbent on the press to remind the public that there are not only two choices: Doing it Bush's way and letting terrorists go free. Even if the Democrats aren't coherent about other alternatives, the press should be.
The generally more moderate Washington Post editorial board agrees with Froomkin about the actual meaning of the compromise. In an editorial subtitled "Senators won't authorize torture, but they won't prevent it, either" The Post writes:
In effect, the agreement means that U.S. violations of international human rights law can continue as long as Mr. Bush is president, with Congress's tacit assent.
Law Professor Marty Lederman has read the proposed legislation and the compromise and posted what he considers to be the most significant problems. After explaining the details of how the language of the compromise allows actions prohibited under the Geneva Conventions, he writes:
The ink was hardly dry on the draft when numerous Administration spokespersons were gleefully informing the press that the bill is a green light to the CIA to reinstitute the "alternative" techniques that Hamdan [the recent Supreme Court ruling] had effectively interdicted.
On the same blog (Balkinization, an excellent blog by legal experts), Professor Sandy Levinson (of my own alma mater, the University of Texas Law School) explains that rights are useless if you have no remedies. He also has John McCain's number:
So now we have a disgusting capitulation by the almost-tragic figure of John McCain, whose near-nobility has been thoroughly corrupted by his desire to be President (though there's no real doubt he'd be a far superior President to the incumbent) that removes any real prospect of a remedy for those tortured by the United States.
Levinson makes another depressing point:
What is even more dispiriting is that there is no reason to believe that the Democrats will defeat this disgrace, as they could through a filibuster that would simply delay its passage beyond the November elections, the whole point of this charade, because they are fearful of being tarred as "friends of the terrorists."
I hope he's wrong. I hope the Democrats will mount a filibuster and help us get our country back on track. Earlier on In This Moment, Diane quoted New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's conclusions about Bush's stand on torture:
Only now, five years after 9/11, has Mr. Bush finally found some things he wants us to sacrifice.
And those things turn out to be our principles and our self-respect.
I'd like to think that someone in Congress would find the courage to say that these actions violate our basic principles and we're not going to allow them. Perhaps I'm too idealistic: There are those who say we've always tortured people, that people did nasty things behind closed doors, and we just never knew about it. I suspect that's true.

But then those same people go on to say that it's necessary for someone to do all those dirty things to allow the rest of us our freedom and democracy. And you know, I'm beginning to think that's one of the biggest myths of all time.

It's people taking principled stands against human rights abuses and for due process of law that protect us, not those using sharp knives in the back room.

My fictional ideal is Atticus Finch, not Jack Bauer.

I wish the members of Congress would take the time to read the US Constitution. It they did, they'd find out something very important:

Congress has the right to tell the President no. It's way past time they did so.


Diane Silver said...

I agree with everything you said! Just a correction: I didn't write those brilliant words about five years after 9/11. I was quoting Paul Krugman from The New York Times.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

Thanks, Diane. I fixed it. Krugman always says it so well.