Friday, September 17, 2004

How far will they go

An article at the New York Review of Books which looks at the lengths Rumsfeld has gone to enable the torture of prisoners
The memos read like the advice of a mob lawyer to a mafia don on how to skirt the law and stay out of prison. Avoiding prosecution is literally a theme of the memoranda. Americans who put physical pressure on captives can escape punishment if they can show that they did not have an "intent" to cause "severe physical or mental pain or suffering." And "a defendant could negate a showing of specific showing that he had acted in good faith that his conduct would not amount to the acts prohibited by the statute." …

Another argument is especially ingenious—or perhaps the proper adjective is hypocritical. The federal statute against torture is limited to acts committed "outside the United States." The Guantánamo Bay naval base "is included within the special naval and maritime jurisdiction of the US," the Defense Department memorandum of March 2003 says, so torture there would not be covered. In the Guantánamo cases that are now awaiting decision in the Supreme Court, the Bush administration strenuously argued the opposite: that Guantánamo is under Cuban sovereignty and hence is outside the jurisdiction of United States courts.

… The debate between the two views on Geneva was really a debate between traditional American views of law and the radically different outlook of the Bush lawyers. The legal adviser to the State Department, William H. Taft IV, in a memo of his own to Gonzales, supported Powell's position, saying that it would demonstrate that the United States "bases its conduct on its international legal obligations and the rule of law, not just on its policy preferences." Secretary Powell said that making Geneva inapplicable at Guantánamo would "reverse over a century of US policy and practice... and undermine the protections of the law of war for our troops...."

… Secretary Powell predicted, correctly, that making the Geneva Conventions inapplicable at Guantánamo would hurt the United States seriously in world opinion. But Secretary Rumsfeld dismissed foreign criticism, in 2002, as "isolated pockets of international hyperventilation."

… The basic premise of the American constitutional system is that those who hold power are subject to the law. As John Adams first said, the United States is meant to be a government of laws, not men. For that Bush's lawyers seem ready to substitute something like the divine right of kings.

There's too much in the report to quote, I suggest reading it through. It makes the blood boil

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