Friday, June 11, 2004

Read It and Weep

An excerpt from the President's news conference on Thursday;

Q: Mr. President, I wanted to return to the question of torture. What we've learned from these memos this week is that the Department of Justice lawyers and the Pentagon lawyers have essentially worked out a way that U.S. officials can torture detainees without running afoul of the law.

So when you say that you want the U.S. to adhere to international and U.S. laws, that's not very comforting. This is a moral question: Is torture ever justified?

BUSH: Look, I'm going to say it one more time. Maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you.

We're a nation of law. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at these laws. And that might provide comfort for you. And those were the instructions from me to the government.
Legalizing Torture, from the Washington Post;

THE BUSH administration assures the country, and the world, that it is complying with U.S. and international laws banning torture and maltreatment of prisoners. But, breaking with a practice of openness that had lasted for decades, it has classified as secret and refused to disclose the techniques of interrogation it is using on foreign detainees at U.S. prisons at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a matter of grave concern because the use of some of the methods that have been reported in the press is regarded by independent experts as well as some of the Pentagon's legal professionals as illegal. The administration has responded that its civilian lawyers have certified its methods as proper -- but it has refused to disclose, or even provide to Congress, the justifying opinions and memos.

This week, thanks again to an independent press, we have begun to learn the deeply disturbing truth about the legal opinions that the Pentagon and the Justice Department seek to keep secret. According to copies leaked to several newspapers, they lay out a shocking and immoral set of justifications for torture. In a paper prepared last year under the direction of the Defense Department's chief counsel, and first disclosed by the Wall Street Journal, the president of the United States was declared empowered to disregard U.S. and international law and order the torture of foreign prisoners. Moreover, interrogators following the president's orders were declared immune from punishment. Torture itself was narrowly redefined, so that techniques that inflict pain and mental suffering could be deemed legal. All this was done as a prelude to the designation of 24 interrogation methods for foreign prisoners -- the same techniques, now in use, that President Bush says are humane but refuses to disclose...
Let's not forget the secret CIA detention centers scattered around the world. Heaven knows what's going on there. You can read the Justice Department's memo on torture here (pdf format).

Melanie of Bump on the Beltway draws our attention to the notes of someone who recently heard troubling statements made by Seymour Hersch at the University of Chicago;

...He said the people most horrified by the way the war was planned were the military commanders responsible for protecting their troops.... He talked about the horror of the 1000 civilian deaths in Fallujah (but was careful to note the Marines were doing their job, placing the blame with their superiors)....

He talked about how hard it is to get the truth out in Republican Washington: "If you agree with the neocons you're a genius. If you disagree you're a traitor." Bush, he said, was closing ranks, purging anyone who wasn't 100% with him. Said Tenet has a child in bad health, has heart problems, and seemed to find him generally a decent guy under unimaginable pressure, and that people told him that Tenet feared a heart attack if he had to take one more grilling from Cheney. "When these guys memoirs come out, it will shock all of us."...

He said that after he broke Abu Ghraib people are coming out of the woodwork to tell him this stuff. He said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, "You haven't begun to see evil..." then trailed off. He said, "horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run."

He looked frightened.
We all need to be frightened. And outraged. And repentant. We cannot escape our role in these atrocities driven by fear. We also cannot escape our responsibility to do what we can to amend this travesty of justice, and end this dishonorable behavior being perpetrated in the name of the United States of America. This is not who we are. Or is it?


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