Thursday, June 23, 2005

I'm Sorry He's Sorry

Yesterday Senator Dick Durbin apologized for comparing interrogations techniques at Guantanamo with methods practiced by Nazis, Stalin, and Pol Pot in his speech of June 14. I'm not sorry that he apologized; I'm sorry he brought up Nazis and other baddies. He'd already said what he needed to say.

--Alberto Gonzales, then-White House chief counsel, recommended to the President the Geneva Convention should not apply to the war on terrorism.

--Colin Powell, who was then Secretary of State, objected strenuously to Alberto Gonzales' conclusions. In a memo to Gonzales, Powell wrote that setting aside the Geneva Conventions "will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice... and undermine the protections of the law of war for our own troops... It will undermine public support among critical allies, making military cooperation more difficult to sustain."

--After the President decided to ignore Geneva Conventions, the administration unilaterally created a new detention policy. They claim the right to seize anyone, including even American citizens, anywhere in the world, including in the United States, and hold them until the end of the war on terrorism, whenever that may be.

--U.S. military lawyers called this detention system "a legal black hole." The Red Cross concluded, "U.S. authorities have placed the internees in Guantanamo beyond the law."

--A Federal court has already held the administration has failed to comply with the Supreme Court's rulings. The court concluded that the detainees do have legal rights, and the administration's policies "deprive the detainees of sufficient notice of the factual bases for their detention and deny them a fair opportunity to challenge their incarceration."

--With no input from Congress, the administration set aside our treaty obligations and secretly created new rules for detention and interrogation. They claim the courts have no right to review these rules. But under our Constitution, it is Congress's job to make the laws, and the court's job to judge whether they are constitutional.

--The administration also established a new interrogation policy that allows cruel and inhuman interrogation techniques.

-- Secretary Rumsfeld approved numerous abusive interrogation tactics against prisoners in Guantanamo. The Red Cross concluded that the use of those methods was "a form of torture."

--Numerous FBI agents who observed interrogations at Guantanamo Bay complained to their supervisors. In one e-mail that has been made public, an FBI agent complained that interrogators were using "torture techniques." That phrase did not come from a reporter or politician. It came from an FBI agent describing what Americans were doing to these prisoners.

--Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

By this point, Durbin had drawn a clear picture of an administration that had cast off or maneuvered around any restraint of international agreement or constitutional law, granted itself absolute power, and incontrovertible evidence of the corrupted abuse of that power.

Then he brought up Nazis and Commies and blew it. He should have known better. He'd seen what the Rove Machine had done with the Amnesty International comments.

Now, most of American will only remember that Durbin called it bad names. It will forget Durbin's stark, urgent message: the power of the mightiest nation in history resides in one man--unchecked, unconstrained, and unaccountable.

Patriots like Senator Durbin want us to take our republic back, and I do too.


  1. But the comparisons were apt. It's a slippery slope out there and we're on a toboggan.

    Problem is, America isn't ready to look itself in the mirror.

    I keep forgetting to add you to my links, Jeff. (Kickin' myself)


  2. Thanks for stopping by, Doug. I'll appreciate you adding my link whenever you can get around to it.

    The most crucial thing we have to face now, in my opinion, is this business of so much power in the executive branch that it's become a law unto itself, because that is precisely what's counter to the American way of life. If we sit by passively and let it continue, UBL and the rest of them will have won.


  3. With respect to the Geneva Convention, Gonzales may be right, from a legal standpoint. If you actually read the Conventions, it likely doesn't cover insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    What Powell was advocating, I think, and I agree with him, is that the U.S. ought to apply the provisions of the Conventions to this conflict even if on their face they don't apply because of the nature of the insurgents.

    That's my reading of the Conventions, anyway. I posted an excerpt from them at WBBS a while back.

  4. Here's the applicable text of the Conventions (it is the only thing I figure Gonzales could have been talking about).

    Defining POWs as they pertain to militias and the like:

    "(2) Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:[
    (a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
    (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
    (c) that of carrying arms openly;
    (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war."

    This type of provision was put into the Geneva Conventions precisely to avoid a situation where combatants are blending into the civilian populace and thereby putting the civilians in more danger.

  5. Thanks again for stopping by and posting again, Scott. It's been ten years since I studies the GC, but what Durbin said pretty much rings true. Uniformed combatants get treatment that guerilla types aren't entitled to--much of it involves standard military courtesies. But it doesn't allow for complete absence of law for other sorts of detainees.

    It gets murky, though, when you pick through which provisions we signed on to and which ones we didn't.

    I'll look around and see what I can find on the web.


  6. I agree, Jeff. And regardless, I think we should extend those protections to other detainees even if the Conventions don't require it, because that is the kind of country I think we ought to be.

  7. Me too. If you don't catch it on the BBS, here's the UN convention on torture, degradation, etc.

  8. Thanks for the link, Jeff. I'll take a look at it.

  9. Scott, I can't find the link right now but here's what I think was Sanchez' "loophole"--a US Senate advise and consent clause to the UN convention:

    (1) That the United States considers itself bound by the obligation under article 16 to prevent `cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment', only insofar as the term `cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment' means the cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

    This is where I think the decision to put the dudes in Gitmo came from--in Gitmo, those amendments don't apply.



  10. That could be what he was thinking, but I'd argue that the exception refers to the character of the actions taken and not the location of the actions.

    The way I'd read it, it means if something has been held by U.S. courts to be OK under the Constitution, then it is allowable regardless of whether other countries may agree or not, because we're only agreeing to be bound by our own definitions. I think it is a stretch to say this means it only applies to us within the borders of the U.S. If that were the case, it would be superfluous because the Constitution already protects against the same within our borders.

    Maybe that's what they were thinking, though.

  11. What Durbin said is nothing to the shit storm Karl Rove has caused. Will the wingnut fuckers demand an apology from him?

    I'm not holding my breath.

    I am ready to hold Rove accountable. Pitch forks and torches, my villagers?

  12. Good luck. Rove isn't elected. He doesn't care what you or I think or how many people sign a petition, and Bush isn't going to back down in his support of him.

  13. An angry mob is an ugly ting. But I tink it's about time ve had vun.

    To ze voodshed!

  14. Jeff:

    What do you think of Rove's comments? I posted my thoughts on my blog. I'd be interested in your feedback if you have time.