This week Senate Republicans have reached a compromise on Torture with the Bush Administration that effectively guts the Geneva Conventions and our nations Moral Authority. If this legislation is signed into law - the United States will officially become a Rogue Nation. A Terrorist State that sanctions the commission of War Crimes, by simply redefining them out of existence. The President will be allowed to become the sole Deciderer of what is legal and constitutes a "grave breach" of human dignity and what doesn't. Establishing law and fact via Executive Fiat, like the decrees of an Emperor - not a President. Someone needs to tell Senators Graham, Warner and McCain that what they've just done by handing this authority over to Bush, is the equivelent of letting the head of the Gambino Crime Family define what is and isn't Racketeering and Murder.
From Federalist 47:
The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
Make no mistake - this is indeed Tyranny - and will be a stain on our national character that will last with us for generations, just as we continue to live with the shame of the Tuskegee Experiment and Interment of Japanese Americans during WWII.
But this... this is worse. We didn't torture the internees.
I'm almost at a loss for words.
The idea that the technique used by Jack Bauer on 24 are soon to become part of our official anti-terrorism policy is shocking. And mindnumbingly stupid as well.
U.S. officials do not use the word torture to describe their own methods. Instead, American intelligence officials speak of "aggressive interrogation measures," sometimes euphemistically known as "torture lite." According to human-rights activists who have consulted with Senate staffers involved in the negotiations, Bush administration officials are trying to redefine the Geneva Conventions, which bans "cruel practices," to allow seven different procedures: 1) induced hypothermia, 2) long periods of forced standing, 3) sleep deprivation, 4) the "attention grab" (forcefully seizing the suspect's shirt), 5) the "attention slap," 6) the "belly slap" and 7) sound and light manipulation. As NEWSWEEK reported this week in its story The Politics of Terror, a harsh technique called "waterboarding," which induces the sensation of drowning, would be specifically banned.
Thank God for small favors - no "Waterboarding". Yippee.
There is a one single good reason why U.S. courts do not allow for coerced testimony -- IT. CANT. BE. TRUSTED.
The TV Show that Bush and his Cronies should be watching isn't 24 - it's CSI.
According to data obtained by the Innocence Project, which has used DNA evidence to exonerate 180 persons who had been condemned to death row, 35 times (out of the first 130 cases - or 27%) there was a False Confession and another 21 times (16%) the wrongful conviction was the result of bad information provided by informants and snitches.
All indications are that part of the bad intelligence information indicating links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, which led us wrongly into a War with Iraq, were the result of the torture of Ibn Sheik al-Libi at Gitmo - who was a "known fabricator" according to the Defense Intelligence Agency.
this agreement preserves the most single -- most potent tool we have in protecting America and foiling terrorist attacks, and that is the CIA program to question the world's most dangerous terrorists and to get their secrets.
More potent than actually protecting the ports, instead of handing them over to the United Arab Emerites? Um,... not so much.
Both the New York Times and Washington Post seem less than enthused.
In editorials entitled "A Bad Bargain" (NYT) and "The Abuse Can Continue" (WaPo), the two papers minced no words declaring not only their opposition to the bill but its effect on the war on terror, global opinion, and history's judgement of the president.
Washington Post: "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. If they do, America's standing in the world will continue to suffer, as will the fight against terrorism. . . .
"Mr. Bush will go down in history for his embrace of tortue and bear responsibility for the enormous damage he has caused."
New York Times: "[The bill] allows the president to declare any foreigner, anywhere, an 'illegal enemy combatant' using a dangerously broad definition, and detain him without any trial.
"The Democrats have largely stood silent and allowed the trio of Republicans to do the lifting. It's time for them to either try to fix this bill or delay it until after the election. The American people expect their leaders to clean up this mess without endangering U.S. troops, eviscerating American standards of justice, or further harming the nation's severely damaged reputation."
In response to this issue when speaking with Keith Olbermann on last nights episode of Countdown, former President Bill Clinton had this to say.
Clinton: Like you take this interrogation dealing. We might all say the same thing if, let's say Osama bin Laden's number three guy were captured and we knew a big bomb was going off in America in three days.
It turns out right now there's an exception for those kind of circumstance in an immediate emergency that's proven in the military regs. But that's not the same thing as saying we want to abolish the Geneva Convention and practice torture as a matter of course. All it does is make our soldiers vulnerable to torture. It makes us more likely to get bad, not good information.
CLINTON: And every time we get some minor victory out of it, we'll make a hundred more enemies, so I think these things, I really think we need to think through all of this and debate more.
The point that has to be repeatedly made here - is that these men have not been proven guilty of anything. They haven't been tried, in fact they are being denied access to the courts -- habeas corpus, one of the founding principles of our nation, is being scraped.
Even when the Military knows that some of these people, particular the "Ghost Detainees" who have been kept hidden from the Red Cross, are innocent of any connection to terrorism, al-Qaeda or the Taliban - they have refused to released them.
Majority of Detainees "Of No Intelligence Value" or Innocent. One statement refers to "a lot of pressure to produce reports regardless of intelligence value." Brig. Gen. Karpinski's deposition also cited the comments of another official, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, who told her, "I don't care if we're holding 15,000 innocent civilians! We're winning the war!" A former commander of the 320th Military Police Battalion notes in a sworn statement, "It became obvious to me that the majority of our detainees were detained as the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were swept up by Coalition Forces as peripheral bystanders during raids. I think perhaps only one in ten security detainees were of any particular intelligence value."
"Releasaphobia" Keep Innocent Detainees Jailed. One member of the Detainee Assessment Board said people were afraid to recommend release of detainees, "even when obviously innocent." Similarly, Brig. Gen. Karpinski spoke of "releaseaphobia" on the part of a review board. According to another report, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez allegedly said of the detainees, "Why are we detaining these people, we should be killing them." The unidentified solider who reported the comment added that it "contributed to a command climate" where "deeds not consistent with military standards would be tolerated if not condoned."
Tens of thousands of others, haven't been so lucky.
Hundreds of detainees have died in custody - including 26 which died directly as a result of abuse - and have been considered homocide. Under the War Crimes Act of 1996 (18 USC § 2441) these crimes are punishable by the Death Penalty.
From the ACLU's FOIA Documents:
Several statements refer to "ghost detainees" who died in custody, including one who died after being chained up in a shower area. Interrogators packed the body in ice and "paid a local taxi driver to take him away." (Note: this report may refer to Manadel a-Jamadi, whose death in Abu Ghraib has been widely reported in the news media.)
Is this how a nation that calls itself "civilized" behaves?
I didn't used to think so... but now I have little choice, don't I?
Instead of leading by example and giving the people of the world a strong and compelling reason to hope and struggle to create the kind of freedom, prosperity and democracy that exemplify the best of our ideals - we are now on the verge of departing from the ranks of lawful nations, and becoming exactly what bin Laden and his ilk has long claimed we were. We have become the "Great Satan".
Yeah, this will really change all those "hearts and minds' to our way of thinking any day now. "Just Wait" is NOT a viable foreign policy.
Unfortunately I think time is running out, and if the Democrats in Congress don't find a way to block the passage of this bill before the end of this Congress -- Game Over.
Congressional Switchboard Toll Free: 866-808-0065 (Call and ask for a Senator - but line may be busy)
DON'T TELL ME THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TIME TO SAVE YOUR COUNTRY!! And if you don't have a phone line to make these calls on and you are in Asheville, email me so I can arrange for you to use my cell phone.
Tell the Democratic Senators to filibuster this bill, because OUR American does not torture and OUR America does not violate the Geneva Conventions.
It will not hurt to call Dole and Burr also.
HERE IS A LIST OF DEMOCRATIC SENATORS TO CALL AND THEIR DC PHONE NUMBERS (the ** means you can leave a message - be sure to leave your name and city and state of residence):
Boxer 202-224-3553 - no messages allowed
Clinton 202-224-4451 - mailbox full
Durbin 202-224-2152 - no messages allowed
Feinstein 202-224-3841 - no messages allowed
Harkin 202-224-3254 - no answer
Jeffords 202-224-5141 (Independent)**
Kennedy 202-224-4543 - no messages allowed
Obama 202-224-2854 - mailbox full
Reid 202-224-3542 - mailbox full
Sarbanes 202-224-4524 - no answer
Schumer 202-224-6542 - cannot leave message