This Week's Debate: U.S. Treatment of Detainees

This week we'll be debating abuse of prisoners by U.S. personnel in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Have these documented incidents gravely damaged the U.S. image in the world? Have we lost our moral high ground and helped Al Qaeda recruit more terrorists? Are our troops in more danger now than before? Or, are abusive interrogations a useful tactic to elicit key information?

Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense, writes that the stories of prisoner abuse are overshadowing the heroic things our soldiers are doing each day. This is undoubtedly a concern -- but what's the solution? Should we stop talking about the abuse or should we insist that our government put a stop to it categorically and in accordance with international law?

Senator John McCain and 89 of his Senate colleagues favor the second option and passed an amendment to a defense spending bill prohibiting torture. But the administration appears willing to do anything in its power to stop them from imposing such restrictions -- and has threatened a veto of amended legislation.

In an editorial a couple weeks ago, the Post found the veto threat to be particularly egregious.

Let's be clear: Mr. Bush is proposing to use the first veto of his presidency on a defense bill needed to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan so that he can preserve the prerogative to subject detainees to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In effect, he threatens to declare to the world his administration's moral bankruptcy.

At Blog Critics, David R. Mark notes that "a veto by Bush would almost certainly be symbolic, because the Senate has the votes to override it. And what a symbol it would be."

But are there times when a president does need the power to allow interrogators to inflict cruel and unusual punishment on detainees in order to get vital information that they believe could save lives? Michael Levin, in his paper The Case for Torture, offers some instances in which he believes torture could be a morally permissable way of "preventing future evils."

Last year, Douglas W. Kmiec argued in the National Review that the memos questioning the applicability of the Geneva Conventions and other anti-torture laws "accurately explore the maximum scope of presidential power during war, provided the presidential decisions being analyzed are necessitated by grave and unforeseen emergencies and the specific tactical responses necessary to meet them. There is nothing in the memoranda to suggest that torture -- as international and domestic law defines it -- was recommended, or that the president or any other high-ranking or even mid-rank officer approved of cruel and abusive behavior."

Kmiec also contends that "the definition of torture under applicable international and domestic law is quite precise. It involves specifically intended infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering." He says the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib was inexcusable, but it wasn't torture.

One key to the government's rationale, however, is the fluidity of the definition of what constitutes "cruel and unusual" treatment. While the definition of torture may, as Kmiec says, be quite precise, the definition of cruel and unusual "is not a hard and fast rule ... and what is forbidden may depend on the circumstances," writes Michael at, as part of his detailed analysis of the Working Group Report on Detainee Interrogations. "Having constructed this loophole," he writes, "...the memo then tries to squeeze through it, noting in its Eight Amendment analysis that the 'government interest here is of the highest magnitude' (p. 38) and hence things that might be excessive force in other circumstances might not be here."

Michael also doesn't buy the presidential powers argument, explaining that the report "sets out a view of an unlimited Presidential power to do anything he wants with 'enemy combatants.' The bill of rights is nowhere mentioned. There is no principle suggested which limits this purported authority to non-citizens, or to the battlefield. ... I cannot exaggerate how pernicious this argument is, and how incompatible it is with a free society. The Constitution does not make the President a King. This memo does."

In the Huffington Post Bob Burnett writes:

George W. Bush made the decision to ignore the Geneva Conventions the night of September 11th; Richard Clarke quoted him, "We are at war...any barriers in your way, they're gone...I don't care what the international lawyers say." The President signed a memo on February 7, 2002, declaring that the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war did not apply to Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
... Torture punishes the innocent as well as the guilty; U.S. authorities acknowledge that the majority of tortured prisoners, whether in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, or Iraq will eventually be released, charged with no crime. Finally, torture is immoral; it takes the philosophy of "the ends justify the means" to an extreme with no limits - more than 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody. Torture is an aggressive, moral cancer.

Burnett also notes, "it is incongruous that America's leader in the war on terror is 'Christian' George Bush. The ethics of Jesus of Nazareth do not condone abuse such as torture. His Golden Rule is, 'Treat people in ways that you want them to treat you.'"

The idea that one should "do unto others" is absolutely fundamental to this debate -- The Oregonian editorializes that "Coercive treatment puts our own soldiers at risk by sparking retaliation -- and rationalizations for mistreating Americans -- when they fall into enemy hands. And the 'intel' that torture yields is unreliable. What people say under torture is tailored to suit their torturers, not the truth. Haven't we had enough misleading intelligence to suit us?" (The Oregonian is not alone in making these arguments.)

A recent Post story offers this explanation of the vice president's rationale for wanting the CIA exempted from the McCain Amendment constraints: "Cheney's camp says the United States does not torture captives, but believes the president needs nearly unfettered power to deal with terrorists to protect Americans. To preserve the president's flexibility, any measure that might impose constraints should be resisted."

Jeffrey H. Smith, writing in the Post, argues that it's not practical to make a distinction between treatment of prisoners by the military vs. by the CIA. They work side by side, he writes, and having them operate under two sets of rules would lead to confusion, especially among less experienced military personnel.

The Oregonian editorial board agrees that the confusion must be resolved. "The soldiers [in Iraq] described an ambiguous environment that yellow-lighted abuse. They crave a red light, and the Senate ban would impose it. Cheney's loophole would further tarnish the nation by flashing a green light for torture."

By Emily Messner |  November 10, 2005; 9:05 AM ET  | Category:  This Week's Issue
Previous: The Facts: U.S. Treatment of Detainees | Next: Abuse at Abu Ghraib: Just Having 'A Little Fun'?


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See Alan Dershowitz's book "The Case for Israel" which has a chapter dedicated to a civilized country's response to the immediate and on-going threat to the safety of its citizens. In short, torture is illegal, and the Supreme Court has upheld that view.

Posted by: Steve | November 10, 2005 10:16 AM

Look. I am not interested in the variety of semantics Bush-Cheney supporters employ to rationalize away what happened at Abu Graib and what apparently is still going in secret CIA-run detention centers all over the world. Whatever term you want to apply to it, it still comes off as demeaning us as the special or exceptional culture that we are here in America.

I have never been one to participate in all of the arrogant boasting that so many on the right do comncerning the moral superiority of the "American way". But, we cannot hold ourselves up to be "exceptional" when we lower ourselves to such loathesome practices. It has been the neocons who have insisted on this arrogant moral conceit. Having insisted thusly, it puzzles me that they now go through this tortured rationale that being a morally superior culture does not require that we abide by the internationally accepted codes of conduct during wartime that we ourselves insisted on codifying for the entire world.

Are we so arrogant as to think that the codes of conduct that we expect of the other nations of the world should not apply to us?

Again, I am prompted to wonder how the Rush Limbaughs of the world would react if it were one of their own sons or daughters who were subjected to the degrading treament so apparent in those Abu Graib photos. Would Limbaugh still consider it no more than a fraternity prank if it were his son in one of those photographs?

Posted by: Jaxas | November 10, 2005 10:54 AM

Stop calling them Neocons! They are Republicans!

Posted by: Julio | November 10, 2005 11:00 AM

From this point forward I make a commitment to stop referring to the people who are in control in the White House, the Congress, and the Senate as Neocons. They are all REPUBLICANS and we need to make absolutely sure that the country understands that all these people doing the evil did against the nation and the world are not some abstract group of individuals. Let it be said that they are all REPUBLICANS not Neocons. I promise you that as the Republicans begin to distance themselves from their Republican cabal that screwed up real badly for them, they will begin once again playing with semantics. Watch as the Republican friendly media tries to obfuscate and confuse the public as to who Dick Cheney and Company really are. Don't even try buddy. They are all REPUBLICANS.

Of course torture is immoral. Why do we even have to debate this issue is beyond me. The question that we should be debating right now is: whether or not the war 'on' Iraq is immoral. They never attacked us and the justifications were based of fabricated information.

The other question we need to debate is: if this country ever finds itself in a situation where USA government officials at the White House have committed treason and crimes against humanity, will we ever turn them over to an international tribunal for trial?

Posted by: Julio | November 10, 2005 11:33 AM

I cannot help but believe what makes the torturing of 'enemy combatants' palatable to those who believe in it has something to do with what the enemy looks like. If the enemy looked more 'American' - and we all know what THAT means -- it would be less likely that they would be subjected to unspeakable horrors occurring in some dank hole. Torture is disgusting, and those who engage in it regardless of their shining ideals are disgusting.

Posted by: Marcus Allison | November 10, 2005 11:34 AM

The very fact that anyone needs to discuss whether to allow torture in and of its self is despicable. To allow sanctioned degradation and pain upon another human for any reason places this country on the same level as the Nazis, Vietcong, WWII Japanese and a host of countries including Iraq. Why would we not punish anyone connected with the approval and the act of torture with crimes against humanity? The war tribunals have repeatedly held the commanders as well as the perpetrators equally responsible for their actions; this might be the easiest way to rid the country of barbaric individuals who not only fail to disapprove of such tactics but actively sanction them through legislation. What a travesty it is to utilize our Constitutional procedures in this manner. Our Commander in Chief ordered the Shock & Awe display early in this atrocity; exactly whom did we bomb, maim and kill in that display? Certainly not Saddam or Ossama, it was simply the innocent men, women and children that were left in the area. Small wonder we are among the most hated countries in the world.

Posted by: Greg | November 10, 2005 12:05 PM

Neocons, fascists and any other group(s) that would use fear to mobilize a society to accept unjustified agression on nations, peoples, social principles, humanity, the rule of law, the rights of privacy, etc. must be exposed for what they are. They are nothing more than criminals wraping themselves in the flag for the purpose of gaining wealth and power. It's the same old story, the evil vs. the good for the souls of man. I'm sorry George W. but when people die from being beaten and hung by their arms for days it is torture and we do torture!

Posted by: George W. Katsilometes | November 10, 2005 12:08 PM

Kill the infedel,so say the muslims. Torture the prisoners for info, so say Godnfearing Right wing people. And we think we are different then them. So they say?

Posted by: Larry | November 10, 2005 12:29 PM

Kill the infedel,so say the muslims. Torture the prisoners for info, so say Godnfearing Right wing people. And we think we are different then them. So they say?

Posted by: Larry | November 10, 2005 12:29 PM

Ms. Emily,
I don't believe you are old enough to
have experienced any war but this one. It
unfortunately has been waged in the media.
In other wars, how many countries have treated their prisoners humanely other than
the United States and Britain? It doesn't matter how many pieces of paper they all sign, all other countries in past wars
have treated their prisoners as less than
the lowest life form. All of this concern
and the excessive media coverage is doing nothing but weaken our strength each day
something is printed about the inhumane way America treats prisoners, among other
things. One would wonder why any of you want to live in a country you think so little of by expressing that opinion
over and over until every country in the
world believes we must be the worst country in the world. I am becoming very
angry at the way the media is portraying
my country. In their zeal to discredit
the President, they are also bringing
dishonor to the millions of people who
are just ordinary people trying to live
in peace and harmony. If that is what you want the world to think of all of your fellow citizens, just remember that it
includes you also. I am not for either
political party right now because they
are equally despicable in my view. The
press however has the agenda to only
condemn the Republicans for every concievable wrong they can find or manufacture. I heard a Prof. Cole on
C-Span this morning making all kinds of accusations about the torture our soldiers
have been inflicting on their prisoners. He
mentioned there had been 100 prisoners killed by our soldiers. I haven't seen any definite proof that this is true. If this is completely accurate, I think the media has an obligation to report the names, where they were from, where it happened, who was responsible, and exactly the method of torture inflicted and how it caused their deaths. Vague reports of deaths from torture are taken as fact by
most people, but I don't believe most of
what I read because it has become merely the opinion of whoever is writing it. How
can the news be accurately reported when all we get are the opinions of the person
writing what is supposed to be the news.
The media has an enormous responsibility
to report the truth. It doesn't matter if
it makes whoever they hate look good, they
should TELL THE TRUTH,THE WHOLE TRUTH,AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH. I think the real truth is lacking as the media has begun to
think of themselves as infallible and the only people whose opinion counts on every
issue. They seem to think they have the
right to make policy for the people instead of our elected officials. I don't
believe any of our so-called journalists
have been elected to any government office,
but you would never know it by what they write. Maybe we should let each person so
concerned about torture be required to take a prisoner in their home and treat
them the way they think is right. I don't think it would take 2 or 3 days for them to be screaming for help and agreeing that
some kind of force is needed to get them
to tell us the information we need to know
to protect their good life so they can continue living it with their nice homes,
cars, clothes, food, and bank accounts, to
which they have become so accustomed. It is
easy to condemn from the comfort of your
easy chair when you have no idea of the people you are so concerned about being
treated well and not being made uncomfortable in any way, even though they may have sawed off someone's head or burned someone alive. I believe this whole torture thing has been blown out of propor-
tion until people are going to look at our soldiers as brutes who torture all their
prisoners and are nothing more than callous
beasts. Does anyone remember Vietnam and how our soldiers were treated when they
came home from spending time in hell be-
cause of our politicians and all the negative publicity from the media?

Posted by: Rosemary | November 10, 2005 12:32 PM


Posted by: rex | November 10, 2005 12:37 PM

Rosemary's post is nothing but an apologist post defending a run-amok policy by this administration that has not only advocated torture, but practiced it around the world.

She attempts to blame the media for reporting on the issue instead of those that have actually brought torture into the American repertoire. I don't think anything in the press would satisfy Rosemary except those particular articles that already match her peculiar world-view.

The Washington Post expose of American 'black sites' around the world should be a wake-up call for all Americans regardless of political persuasion. These so-called 'black sites' are nothing more than black holes from justice that represent nothing of American values, where nobody is held accountable and where anything can happen with no proof left of any crimes committed. Rosemary claims that if the media make allegations that they back them up with names, dates, etc. How is this even a credible statement when this administration does everything in it's power to hide these crimes in facilities that nobody even knew existed prior to the Washington Post's expose? Yes there have been whispers about them, but now there is proof. What more does Rosemary require?

Torture is always wrong. This is not a gray area. We have signed agreements attesting to that fact. What must be done is those that took us down this dark path be held accountable, and by that I don't mean being voted out of office, I want them to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

You may consider yourself a nice person, even a religious person, but let me tell you this: Nice people do not torture human beings.

This whole debate reminds me of the Australian government's response, under the right-wing Liberal Party and it's leader, John Howard, towards refugees and asylum seekers. The government claims these people are a threat and has imprisoned them in so-called 'detention centers' that were far removed from the population centers of the country until only recently. Men, woman and children, even new born babies, were locked up behind razor wire, some upwards of seven years. These people were denied any rights, even the right to their own names as they were referred to by numbers assigned by the government. Every convicted criminal in Australia, even murderers, had more rights than these people. Yet they had committed no crime, they had entered Australia under internationally signed and recognized agreements, and yet the Howard government had so demonized and dehumanized these people that there was virtually no outcry from the Australian people at the horrific, cruel and inhumane treatment given these people.

The point is that no extreme measures by any government can be justified in the end. Nice people do not torture people and nor do nice people incarcerate babies. You can apparently get away with it for a while, by abusing authority, corrupting and co-opting patriotism and lying about the rationale, but it is my sincere hope that those that implement and enforce such policies are held accountable by some court of justice and are held accountable for their crimes.

Posted by: Gary | November 10, 2005 01:18 PM

The Japanese tortured and physically experimented on Americans in WWII, the North Koreans tortured Americans during the Korean "Police Action", the North Vietnamese tortured Americans during the long Vietnam debacle, the Iraqi's tortured Americans in Gulf War I, and the cowardly cretin "insurgents" and Iraqi home boys are doing it again in Gulf War II.

So, just where do we get the notion that by us not being able to place the type of fear that goes with the "possibility" of torture will keep our soldiers from getting tortured?

Personally, I would do anything I thought necessary to save the lives of my cohorts and innocent civilians.

My bet is that most of the folks who make the most noise on this issue have never been in a war, don't know anyone in the current war, and find the concept of torture repugnant (as do I, by the way).

All we do by the continual chipping away at interrogation methods is place our troops in more danger.....especially from its own government.

The fire of this goofy debate is fanned by politically correct, armchair non-combatants who's only result will be the weakening of those who are protecting their rights to pontificate about what can and cannot be done to enemy combatants, especially terrorist miscreants.

Ask yourself this: Assume one of your children was kidnapped; what would you be willing to do a person who you thought there was a ninety percent chance to have done it? A fifty percent chance? Twenty-five? Ten? Five?

Be honest.

Yeah, I thought so.

Posted by: Larry | November 10, 2005 01:42 PM

Martial Law in a Nutshell--15 Question
By Mary Maxwell, Ph.D.
Nov 9, 2005, 00:21

1. Q: Is it likely that martial law is imminent in the U.S.?

A: Yes. The way has been partially cleared for it legally by the Homeland Security Act, that 'grandfathered in' the whole of a secret 1979 executive order dealing with emergency rule. One legal hurdle to martial law still remains, namely, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which explicitly forbids soldiers to participate in domestic law enforcement. However, Congress could easily annul the Posse Comitatus Act, and is being pressured by the attorney general and the Pentagon to do just that.

2. Q: What is martial law?

A: In popular usage, martial law means that some or all civil liberties are suspended. For example, there could be a curfew, which would prevent people from exercising their normal liberty to walk around after 9 p.m. Legally, martial 'law' means that military commanders are assigned to carry out law and order among civilians. Hence, soldiers can determine what the rules are, can arrest civilians for breaking them, and can subject them to summary justice. A person could not turn to the courts for help.

3. Q: Have any democratic countries experienced martial law?

A: Yes, many. For example, Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada declared martial law over Montreal in 1970 in response to kidnappings by Quebec separatists. In the Philippines, martial law under President Marcos lasted from 1972 to 1981. Greece endured 'the rule of the Colonels' from 1967 to 1974.

4. Q: At the moment, while the Posse Comitatus Act is still in effect, does it offer good protection?

A: No. Posse Comitatus was substantially weakened by amendments in 1981 and 1991 that gave the Defense Department a role in the enforcement of drug laws. Since then, many American cities have acquired joint task forces composed of military and local police (who can be temporarily deputized as federal officers). A drug dealer, or an innocent person, may have his door broken down--legally--and his home entered by soldiers and police with guns drawn.

5. Q: What does the Constitution of the U.S. say about martial law?

A: The term 'martial law' never appears in the Constitution. However, the idea of it is conveyed in two sections of Article I as follows: Section 8 says The Congress shall have the Power . . . (15) To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions. Section 9 (2) says The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety will require it.

6. Q: Does the Constitution tell us which branch of government has the right to declare martial law?

A: Yes, the legislative branch has the right. Currently, there are 'White House radicals,' particularly in the Office of Legal Counsel to the President, advocating the position that the Constitution can be interpreted to support almost unlimited executive power. However, even they must acknowledge that the above-quoted sections (Sections 8 and 9) appear in Article I of the Constitution, which is the article that allocates specific powers to the legislature! Indisputably, this means that Congress can suspend our right to habeas corpus. One looks in vain for any similar authority for the president. Article II, which lays out the prerogatives of the executive branch, is silent on these matters.

7. Q: Has martial law ever been declared in the U.S.?

A: Yes. President Lincoln declared it during the Civil War. but this was overruled by the Supreme Court, after the war ended, in the case of Ex Parte Mulligan (1866). Mr. Mulligan was a civilian in Indiana who was allegedly aiding the enemy, i.e., the Confederacy. He was arrested and tried by the military. The Supreme Court ruled that there was no justification for martial law since the ordinary courts had functioned throughout the Civil War, and thus Mr. Mulligan should not have been deprived of his right to habeas corpus. One of the Justices said, "No graver question was ever considered by this court, nor one which more nearly concerns the rights of the whole people . . ."

8. Q: Then what about Jose Padilla, who has been held in a military brig since 2001, uncharged, even though he is an American civilian? Isn't the deprivation of his rights a grave matter?

A: Not according to the US Court of Appeals, which has taken the pro-executive position that the president requires scope to fight the war on terror.

(Note: the Latin 'habeas corpus' literally means "Produce the body" i.e., bring the accused before a judge.)

9. Q: Will we ever see Army tanks roll onto the streets in our country?

A: This has already happened. Tanks rolled out in Los Angeles during the Watts riots in 1965. It happened again in that city in 1992, when rioting followed the verdict of 'not guilty' in the case of four white police officers who had severely beaten an African-American, Rodney King.

10. Q: Is it likely that race riots will be the thing that triggers martial law?

A: In many countries, ethnic minority repression leads to outbursts that are quelled by military force. Since Americans are conditioned to see racial conflict as a frightening possibility, our government may be able to 'sell' the idea of martial law. An alternative scenario, which cannot be ruled out, is that someone would kidnap or assassinate a high official of the American government with an eye to bringing about martial law.

11. Q: What is the first assignment for soldiers when martial law is declared?

A: If the actual intent of the government is to establish illegitimate dictatorial rule, one of the first things it must do is remove oppositional leaders and popular figures--be they poets, physicians, priests, or judges. When General Augusto Pinochet seized power in Chile in 1973, his soldiers immediately arrested hundreds of dissidents and corralled them in a stadium. They were subsequently tortured and many were 'disappeared.' Now, three decades later, technological advances such as stun guns and remote-control pain delivery make it even easier to arrest huge groups of people.

12. Q: Is it conceivable that mercenaries would be used domestically?

A: It is more than conceivable; it has already happened. Following Hurricane Katrina, the Blackwater USA (and perhaps other mercenary units) were assigned to duty in Louisiana by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

13. Q: Where does FEMA get its authority?

A: As above mentioned, the Homeland Security Act established it legislatively. Section 502 of that act says" . . . there shall be transferred to the Secretary [of the new Homeland Security Department] the functions, personnel, assets, and liabilities of . . . the Federal Emergency Management Agency."

14. Q: Didn't FEMA have an unsavory history during the Reagan administration when it helped to run a secret government inside the White House, doing deals that became known as the Iran-Contra affair?

A: Yes.

15. Q: How is it that the controversial powers of FEMA did not get resolved in the past 20 years?
A: Perhaps because there have been too many distractions. Fortunately for us, however, Professor Harold Koh, Dean of Law at Yale, provides excellent recommendations for reform in his 1990 book The National Security Constitution. Koh calls for a return to the proper balance of power among the three branches of government, even in times when foreign crises--or domestic terrorism--work to unbalance those powers.

Mary Maxwell, Ph.D., P.O. Box 4307, Ann Arbor, MI, 48106, USA, is a political scientist. You can email her as 'mary' at her website She hereby permits anyone to distribute this article as long as it is unaltered and credits the author.

Copyright © 1998-2005 Online Journal
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Posted by: Che | November 10, 2005 01:54 PM

The second most disturbing aspect of the Post's article exposing the existence of the CIA's "black sites," used for detaining suspected terrorists, is the Post's apparent, and shocking, lack of jounalistic integrity.

As reported in the Tribune, the story stated that these prisons were maintained in certain Eastern European countries, which the Post did not identify "at the request of a high government official."

Since when does any newspaper worth the paper on which it is printed withhold information at the request of government officials?! I'm sure that many "high government officials" must have requested the Post not to disclose the information unearthed by Woodward and Bernstein during the so-called "Watergate scandal," but in those days, the Post didn't listen to such requests.

I am willing to assume that most newspapers engage in a certain degree of self-censorship to refrain from disclosing matters that, in the editors' opinion, will jeopardize national security, or the lives of troops, CIA agents, or others. But no such justification exists here.

What possible "national security" interest is at stake by not disclosing the countries (but not the specific locations) where the CIA is holding these prisoners--and if not torturing them, is at least detaining them without the accountability needed to comply with basic principles of human rights and international law?

If the Post was concerned that the international community would bring pressure to bear on those countries to stop allowing this administration to operate these "black sites," this would be the best argument FOR disclosing them. For it is only with such pressure that we can hope this sort of thing will stop being done by our government. At the very least, the Post should be concerned that it is complicit in any wrongdoing that takes place in such prisons, by failing to do all that it can to inform its readers, and let the consequences--whatever they may be--be determined by an informed readership.

I hope this will encourage the Post to disclose where the CIA has been doing its "dirty work," and that a better-informed world will respond appropriately.

Posted by: John | November 10, 2005 01:58 PM

If USA is condoning torture then it's time to release Saadam with an apology. Or is it only the US that can properly determine how, when and whom to torture?

Posted by: Isedora | November 10, 2005 02:16 PM

If USA is condoning torture then it's time to release Saadam with an apology. Or is it only the US that can properly determine how, when and whom to torture?

Posted by: Isedora | November 10, 2005 02:17 PM

I think our international reputation was significantly damaged when we invaded Iraq. Our treatment of POWs is just arsenic icing on a very bitter cake.

Posted by: Bob P. | November 10, 2005 02:53 PM

Release Saddam with an apology and a kiss, eh? Oh, the moonbats are lovely this time of year!

Posted by: Duncan | November 10, 2005 02:53 PM

I think we SHOULD permit torture and make it legal -- with one caveat. Those of us that are disgusted with how this administration has run this country for the last 5 years get to "test" this torture thing on Delay, Rove, Cheney, and George first to see if it truly would solve this country's problems.

Posted by: Bob | November 10, 2005 03:36 PM

The "ticking time bomb" argument for allowing torture is a red herring. Any law could conceivably stand in the way of preventing an act of terror. If there needs to be an exception for torture, wouldn't there have to be an exception for every other law too? What if the only way to stop a terrorist from exploding a nuclear weapon required breaking an entering a private home, or stealing a car, or impersonating a police officer, or etc. etc. etc.?

Clearly it is possible to imagine scenarios in which breaking the law is right and necessary. This doesn't mean that the laws are bad; it just means that no system of laws can ever be perfect.

The only reason for opposing a law against torture is to enable torture as a policy, not as an act of last resort.

Posted by: Michael | November 10, 2005 03:47 PM

If torture is required to protect the "good life" with "nice homes,
cars, clothes, food, and bank accounts", then the price of the good life is too high. John McCain reminds us that the good life we enjoy is based on things of more fundamental value. We must remember and protect what it is that makes us different from the cruel and fanatical.

Posted by: Robin | November 10, 2005 03:59 PM

I don't think anyone can defend torture as a policy and I think it cheapens us as a society if we take part in it. That being said, our collective angst over abu-Ghraib and the like is a little misplaced. No one seems to remember Nick Berg, Daniel Pearl, Fabrizio Quattrocchi (, men who were butchered like cattle by the so-called "insurgents", or "militants", or, as the fringe left likes to call them, "freedom fighters". Their deaths, and the deaths of countless others get basically shrugged off in the media (unless of course you can find a way to blame the US, then it becomes like abu_Ghraib, a nonstop orgy of hand-wringing), THATS the true crime. Torture is bad and we should do all we can to make sure it is never policy, but making the US a greater evil than the monsters who purpotrate such heinous crimes, or even so flippantly equating Guantanimo with Nazi concentration camps or the Soviet gulag (Hello Sen. Durbin!!!!),is just disgusting.

Sorry, but I can't equate having panties on my head to having it sawed off.

Posted by: Forza | November 10, 2005 04:35 PM

We have learned that CIA set up secret prisons all over the world.
Cheney is leading pressure against the bill witch will prohibit torturing also outside the USA. Bush has time after time said that the USA is not torturing anybody. He is anyway warned that he will use his veto if the bill of McCain comes to his table. There is a lot of believable information about torturing, deaths in mysterious circumstances and disappearing of prisons.
If one can trust to the word of Bush why he and Cheney are fighting against McCain's bill which denies torture? There is no reason to trust Bush in this case. The conflict between his his words and behaviour of his administration is too big.
The demand of stop torturing as ineffective procedure was important part of philosophy of the enlightenment in 18th century. Fredrik the Great stop torturing in Prussia. Gustaf III in Sweden. The thoughts of philosophy of the enlightenment had a very big part in the beginning of the history of the USA and in writing the constitution of the USA.
Of course even democracies have commit torturing later. The principle that it is always condemnable and criminal has after all remained. The administration of Bush is shaking just this principle in irresponsible way. This administration has made conclusion that a new sort of threat gives them new authority to protect their people. The seem to think that because the USA is the cradle of democracy they can use different rules at home and in other countries. So what is illegal in the USA is legal in Guantámano or in Abu Ghraib. Western democracies does not know any exemptions of their basic values. If some members of the European Union have CIA's secret prisons they have joined to wrong Union!
The USA can not pretend that its torture policy is only its own issue. We all outside the USA are witnesses of this illegality and potential victims. So miserable situation has become because the USA has exceptional ignorant president who has surrounded himself with advisers not up to the standard.

Posted by: Peccavi | November 10, 2005 04:40 PM

Since Senator Frist wants to investigate who leaked the existence of the Eastern European torture prisons, Congress should also investigate which of its members were privy to the Bush-Cheney order to use torture. The the President, the Vice-President, and those members of Congress who were complicit, should be impeached, tried, convicted, thrown out of office and handed over to the International Court of Justice at the Hague for trial as war criminals. There is no moral ambiguity here, no complex question of the ethics involved. These men are all war criminals by both US standards and international ones.

Posted by: Peter | November 10, 2005 05:10 PM

Larry - I agree with your sentiments but I think your hypothetical at the end proves why you are wrong, and why torture is wrong. You ask us to ask ourselves what we would do if our own loved one was in harm's way. Of course, most of us would do anything we could, but personal passions and vengeance cannot form the foundation for a civilized society. There must be due process, checks and balances, and respect for the humane principles of the rule of law. For example, (and I am speaking purely hypothetically), what if I suspected that killing you would help bring my loved one back? I don't know you, Larry. Let's say somebody in my family disappeared, and I received incorrect information that you were the kidnapper? If all I had to consider were my own passions, I'd do everything I could to kill you as quickly as possible. How could society tolerate that? Yet that's exactly what we're talking about here. We don't know who these "enemy combatants" are, why they were picked up, or what they've done. Many of them are innocent of any wrongdoing. (Lest you think otherwise, recall that hundreds have been released from Guantanamo alone with no further prosecution.) And even if they're the worst of the worst, the whole point of our system is that it applies to EVERYONE, not just the people we prejudge as deserving of it. Because once we start making exceptions, then the whole thing falls to pieces and we're no better than the worst tit-for-tat situation on earth.

Posted by: Andy | November 10, 2005 05:12 PM

The International Court of Justice is a joke. How long's Milosovic been on "trial"? What is it now, 5,6 years? And what exactly is international law? Who determines the standards? China? Zimbabwe? Sorry, the ICJ is just another of those utopian pipedreams

Posted by: D | November 10, 2005 05:21 PM

History repeats itself. Once a country becomes arrogant, over zealous and self-rightous, throwing its weight around, over extending its military around the world, it is the end. But that is not bad. Being just a humble nation among other nations maybe we can start spending our money on what counts: the health and welfare of the citizens.

Posted by: | November 10, 2005 05:44 PM


Pro: as Secretary Charles Evan
Hughes said, "Gentlemen do not read other gentlemen's mail." This in reference to the creation of the foreruner of the CIA, the lack of the creation of which put us behind in WWII.

Con: The relative lack of bloodthirstyness of the American public. If you thought Iraq was bad, just wait until someone describes the techniques used under VP Cheney's CIA exemption and the lack of information they brought forth.

Summation: If torture produces nothing of value, then there is no need for it. Also, the American public would not stand for it, except in lurid headlines or made for TV movies, snuff films, and novels by evangelical Republicans, to wit: "TORTURE SECRETS OF THE CIA EXPOSED" or "MAN REVEALS HE WAS TORTURED BY CIA AND LOVED IT!" etc etc etc.

Recomendation: Avoid the subject and move on to standard spy stuff like planting agents in terrorist organizations, decoding messages, etc etc etc.

Posted by: Kurt | November 10, 2005 05:47 PM

Of course the administration's utilitarian justifications for torture are red herrings. The information we get from torture is never, in practice, valuable enough to justify the collateral damage we do to our public image and to the innocent people who are tortured along with the guilty.
But this whole argument is a red herring in a larger sense. The administration is not torturing people for practicial reasons. The military JAG officers and interrogators in the trenches, who know what works, are almost universally opposed to the new guidelines. It is upper-level administration officials who are pressuring the rank and file to use torture.
So why does the administration torture? Because they believe terrorist suspects deserve to be tortured, and treating them humanely would grant them a false moral legitimacy. You can't accord human rights to someone you consider to be subhuman.
Thus our government has agreed to treat certain captured Taliban as though they were lawful combatants, but refuses to actually grant them lawful combatant status -- on "principle". They would violate our treaty obligations even if they got nothing out of it.

Posted by: SDM | November 10, 2005 06:19 PM

For those interested in those issues, I warmly recommend the movie "The battle of Algiers" by Gillo Pontevedra. The DVD edition also includes some very interesting bonus material, including an analysis by Richard Clarke that enlights current events. In short:
- While the theoretical ticking bomb case argument is used to allow torture, torture always ends up being used mostly against poor lads that have nothing to do with ticking bombs. Often they are there because they have been denounced at random by fellow poor lads who want to get a break from torture.
- It should be acknowledged that torture can sometimes bring useful information to the questioner, hence its use all over history and civilisations. But the movie (and history for that matter) shows that while torture was critical in French paratroops' victory in the battle of Algiers, it has also helped them lose the war of Algeria a few years after.
- Interestingly, although I thought the spirit of the film would basically anti-militaristic, it actually puts the blame on politicians who fail to consider the consequences of mandates they give to the army. In Democracies the armies do not argue on policy, and whenever they are sent for a fight, they fight to win. Shouldn't politicians weigh what it takes to win before they engage battles?

Posted by: downunder | November 10, 2005 06:28 PM

Let's be practical. Does torture work? The answer to this question from "experts" in the field is no. But it does make the neocon, religious, shock jock listeners feel good and that's what GW Bush is about. Making his people feel good so they don't think about their failing health system, green house threats and educational problems etc etc

Posted by: squirefred | November 10, 2005 06:47 PM

By amaizing coincidence, just as we are finally having a serious debate about torturing our prisoners along comes the U.S. Senate to weigh in. In a maneuver that would impress Kafka, the Senate voted tonight to deny habeas jurisdiction to Guantanamo detainees -- in essence voting to condemn these people to indefinite detention without trial. The only thing federal courts may review is whether the military trial was carried out in accordance with the military's own rules for setting it up. Which is circular -- as long as the military decides that the human beings it is holding are terrorists, then the Senate has declared that those "terrorists" have no recourse at law to contest that finding. And we all know that it is easier to torture somebody who has no way to fight back and no way to enlist anyone's help. Another shameful chapter in this country's 21st Century history.

Posted by: Andy | November 10, 2005 09:40 PM

One of the blog postings above seems to suggest that torture may be permitted as a last resort. This is a dangerous position, I think.

What is "last resort" anyway? It could only mean that you have tried every other possible means of punishing a guy or obtaining useful information. If it is a question of punishment I don't see a "last resort" other than capital punishment. (By the way, I don't support capital punishment, but for the sake of argument, let us say that the crime is serious enough to merit this 'final solution.' But one would expect that US law is applied and that detainees are allowed to defend themselves, etc. Now, this is not happening in the case of detainees in clandestine bunkers run by the CIA in Eastern Europe and elsewhere).

If you intend to gain information by using torture as "last resort" I am sure you are going to end up getting nothing worthwhile. The threat of overwhelming pain will not induce people to tell the truth, on the contrary, they will say "yes" to whatever you want them to say, just so they can avoid torture. So, even in this case, torture as last resort makes no sense at all.

That leaves us with just one last motive for torture: revenge. The problem with this is that all the guys rounded up in Iraq and Afghanistan are not the ones who flew the planes into WTC or the Pentagon. These are persons "suspected" of terror actions or just those who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can not take it out on these poor guys when Osama & Co is vacationing in the air-conditioned bunkers somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistan border or wherever.

It seems not right to blame all Republicans for the torture policy of the Administration. At least John McCain is not one of them.

Posted by: Jerry | November 10, 2005 10:32 PM

I want to thank the print media for their excellent coverage on this issue. If it wasn't for you this story would have been conveniently swept under the rug. Please keep up the good work until we get a full, independent investigation into all aspects of this HUGE story.

To those that defend torturing prisoners I feel sorry them. They have obviously lost their moral compass and will one day pay a heavy price for their actions. I am confident that the vast majority of them will live to regret their decisions when they are finally forced to confront what they have long defended. History will not be kind to those that could have done something to stop this egregious distortion of our values but preferred instead to look the other way.

This is not a partisan issue, it is an American issue. This is about the values and the support for the rule of law that our country has championed for over 200 years. For those that think that this is just about politics, they have obviously not been paying attention and need to pull their head out of the sand.

Louisville, KY

Posted by: Thank you to the print media | November 10, 2005 11:41 PM

This is to Gary, to clear up his mis-
understading of some of my remarks from yesterday.I was not defending torture. I find it to be an abhorent practice of cruel and unusual punishment when used by anyone. I can't begin to comprehend how
one human being could be able to inflict
severe pain and suffering on another. I lost my favorite person in the world in WWII when I was just a very young child, but his death, coming back in a coffin, the military funeral that followed, and my extreme grief is forever burned in my memory.
When there is an accusation of killing
prisoners by beating them to death, I want to know about the actual proof of it before I can accept it as fact. I still
think it is easy to condemn and moralize
from a comfortable place, but if actually confronted with the reality of those who
wish to do us harm and have no moral com-
punction against inflicting pain and suffering on us, we would have a more realistic view of how it could happen. This
is not meant to imply that I condone it,
but that there could be situations where
the threat of death from a ruthless enemy
could cause a person to reach the point where they could be capable of it. After all, facing an enemy with the threat of
being killed or conquered is torture, in and of itself,to those involved in the
Altough this shoudn't be a partisan issue,it has become one, because of the
hate and divisiveness in our country.
No president can satisfy everyone and each president has made decisions which angers
the other side and we can all argue about it, but I have never seen such extreme
hatred for a president that I see now.
This is not meant as being sympathetic
to or agreement with this administrations
policies. I don't agree with most of the policies of the Bush Administration, and
certainly not with going to war with Iraq.
I haven't heard an acceptable explanation
for it since it started and don't feel there is one. I thought it was the right
thing to do when they decided to go into
Afghanistan, but to leave there and start another war and abandon our goal of finding those responsible for 9/11, was without reason or justification, to my way of thinking.
I am not an apologist for and do not
condone torture by anyone, against anyone.
I am saddened by the way America is being
accused, instead of the administration.
The people I know do have opinions about
the policies our government( executive and legislative ), have put in place, but for the most part, they just want to be able to have a life where they can work, have a home and family,be happy,and live in peace with each other. I believe when accusations are made, they should be directed against those responsible for
the decisions that caused the conditions
which brought them about, not America as
a whole. I think we should know what is
real and true, before we become angry and
rush to judgement. I don't believe what
America stands for or the American people
condone torture.The only thing we are responsible for is voting for the
people we believe stand for our beliefs
and what we value. When less than half of us vote, we don't always get that. That is
the only way the people can change things.
I just don't like to hear "America" accused, but when our elected government
fails us, they are fair game.

Posted by: Rosemary | November 11, 2005 12:45 PM

Torture of prisoners and " Enemy Combatant"
were embraced by a group of "men" who never have or never will wory that the next second they might be a prosoner of war.

Posted by: Stuart Jones | November 11, 2005 04:14 PM


GRAHAM'S AMENDMENT passed! I heard it on the Rachel Maddow show this morning :-( A democracy is no place for Stealth amendment or law passage. There should be mandatory publication of Congressional activity, followed by a period for public comment BEFORE a VOTE is Cast by Congress! This would inform 'we the people' about what laws we will have to live with if the law passes, and give Congress time to read all the material to understand what they are voting for.

From News Day article:
"The unusual provision, passed by a 49-42 vote, would reverse a Supreme Court ruling last year that permitted inmates to file habeas corpus petitions, triggering hundreds of lawsuits from prisoners who said they were being held with no basis.",0,6972229.story?

This needs to be challenged immediately, starting with the FIVE Democratic Senators who voted for it!

According to the New York Times:
"The five Democrats voting for the bill were Senators Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Ron Wyden of Oregon."

Additionally there were 2 Democrats who did not vote!!!Corzine - New Jersey (didn't vote) and Inouye - Hawaii (didn't vote). If the Democratic Yes Votes and those who abstained had voted NO, this amendment would have been defeated!!
This information came from the following commentary :;sid=2005/11/11/10538/783

The appropriations bill, to which it is attached, is expected to be up for final vote next week. This is what it does:


From The Center for Constitutional Rights:

Bush's New Assault on Democracy: Habeas Corpus Stabbed in the Back


The Bush Administration, through an amendment introduced by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, has just successfully stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to hear applications for habeas corpus brought by those unilaterally declared enemy combatants without any process and held by the U.S. indefinitely throughout the world and even in the United States. This was accomplished by means of a last minute amendment to the Military Authorization Bill, brought up on the floor of the Senate without committee deliberations and virtually no advance warning to the American people that it was happening.

Description and Status

It was not only human rights groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights, but many in the military or retired from the military who opposed the Graham amendment: Judge John Gibbons, who argued the landmark CCR case Rasul v. Bush before the Supreme Court, John Hutson, Dean of Franklin Pierce Law Center and former Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy, and the National Institute for Military Justice, among others, wrote open letters to the Senate to oppose the dismantling of habeas corpus.

The Graham amendment will create a thousand points of darkness across the globe where the United States will be free to hold people indefinitely without a hearing and beyond the reach of U.S. law and the checks and balances of the courts enshrined in our Constitution. The last time this country suspended habeas corpus was for the internment of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II, a travesty that is now universally recognized as a blot on our nation's history. The purpose of the writ of habeas corpus has always been to relieve those wrongfully held from the oppression of unchecked executive power. The most reliable way to determine whether someone is properly held or a victim of injustice is to have a right to judicial review of the detention. This has been understood at least since the proclamation of the Magna Carta in 1215.

While the Administration and its supporters have tried to characterize the men being held at Guantánamo as the worst of the worst against all evidence, the fact is that even the military has admitted that they often apprehended the wrong people. Most have no ties to Al Qaida, many were turned over to the U.S. for bounty, and many more were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they have no way to appeal their innocence or their status, they will be left to rot in detention indefinitely.

Senator Graham's jurisdiction-stripping efforts come as allegations of secret CIA detention facilities around the world dominate headlines; the Bush Administration has consistently sought to put itself above the law and evade oversight and accountability for torture and other abuse. It is no secret that arbitrary indefinite detention and widespread prisoner mistreatment have taken and continue to take place at Guantánamo and other U.S.-run facilities. The Graham Amendment will only serve to reinforce the growing perception in the world that the United States has become an enemy of human rights.

As has been the practice of this Administration, this latest scheme was accomplished stealthily and in secret. The Center for Constitutional Rights vows to continue to fight for the rule of law. We will not allow American democracy to be eroded a little at a time, until, finally looking around, we can longer recognize what has become of this democratic nation."

Tell everyone you know about this amendment. Please help stop it before it becomes law. If it passes, ANYONE AT ALL could be detained without being able to the defend themselves in a court of law.

See my comments and post from yesterday on this subject: Here is a direct link to petition the Senate to stop Grahams ill conceived stealth admendment:

Note: Here is a direct link to petition the Senate to stop Grahams ill conceived stealth admendment:

Posted by: Che | November 12, 2005 05:47 AM

Natural Disasters and the Militarization of America

by Michel Chossudovsky

October 23, 2005

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Both the Avian Flu threat, which has taken on a political twist, and the hurricane disasters are being used by the Bush White House to justify a greater role for the Military in the country's civilian affairs.

Bush hinted, offhandedly, at the height of Hurricane Rita that the Military should become the "lead agency" in disaster relief:

"Is there a natural disaster--of a certain size--that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort? That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about."

A few weeks later at a White House Press Conference, President Bush pointed to a role for the Military in enforcing quarantines in the case of an outbreak of avian flu:

"I have thought through the scenarios of what an avian flu outbreak could mean. ... If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country? And how do you, then, enforce a quarantine? ... And who best to be able to effect a quarantine? One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move. So that's why I put it on the table. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have." (White House Press conference, October 4, 2005)

Meanwhile, a new media consensus is in the making. Highlighted in the tabloids and on network TV, the threats of natural disasters are now casually lumped together with those associated with a terror attack on the Homeland. According to Daniel Henniger writing in the Wall Street Journal:

"The question raised by the Katrina fiasco. is whether the threat from madmen [Osama and Al Zarqawi] and nature is now sufficiently huge in its potential horror and unacceptable loss that we should modify existing jurisdictional authority to give the Pentagon functional first-responder status."

Fait Accompli

What is the dividing line, from the point of view of emergency procedures, between these two distinct phenomena? Or is there a dividing line between a humanitarian disaster resulting from a natural cause on the one hand, and a real or perceived "terror attack on America" on the other?

The Department of Homeland Security's National Response Plan (NRP) (December2004) eliminates the distinction between a civilian and a national security emergency situation:

"This approach is unique and far reaching in that it, for the first time, eliminates critical seams and ties together a complete spectrum of incident management activities to include the prevention of, preparedness for, response to, and recovery from terrorism, major natural disasters, and other major emergencies. The end result is vastly improved coordination among Federal, State, local, and tribal organizations to help save lives and protect America's communities by increasing the speed, effectiveness, and efficiency of incident management." italics added

The NRP is fully operational: the militarisation of emergency procedures is, in many regards, "a done deal".

The NRP is built around emergency procedures in the case of a "terrorist attack": it focuses on ":incident management". It is endorsed by lead federal agencies and government departments (including the CIA and the DoD).

Deployment in the case of a major civilian emergency (e.g. hurricane and/or avian flu pandemic) would be governed by the same criteria in conformity with the basic tenets of the "war on terrorism". The latter also characterize the workings of FEMA.

The Militarization of "Civil Society" Relief Organizations

The militarisation of disaster relief has also been endorsed by the American Red Cross , the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) These key organizations are signatories of the National Response Plan. They have endorsed Homeland Security's definition of a national emergency. Under the NRP, these key civilian organizations are directly under the authority of the DHS, FEMA and the Pentagon. Distinct from the Corporation for National and Community Service, the NVOAD regroups a large number of individual non-governmental organizations . In signing the NRP, these organizations have foregone their "civilian" mandate in disaster relief.

In relation to Hurricane Wilma, the DoD has set up a Defense Coordinating Office, which operates out of the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, Florida.

More significantly, the Pentagon has dispatched US Northern Command officials to FEMA national headquarters. According to Frances Fragos Townsend, Homeland Security Adviser to President Bush, the U.S. Northern Command "planners" have a mandate "to deploy the military if needed." (quoted in Seattle Times, 22 Oct 2005).

Criminal Charges against Bush Administration officials

The renewed call for a greater role for the military in the country's civilian affairs has emerged at a critical political juncture. The Plame-CIA leak investigation, led by Special Counsel Fitzgerald could result in criminal charges and impeachment procedures directed against key members of the Bush Cabinet, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

While the "war on terrorism" is still the main pretext for a greater role of the military, natural disasters constitute a new and innovative justification.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian disaster in the Gulf as well as the perceived threat of a bird flu pandemic are being used to deflect public attention from the broader issue of conspiracy and war crimes revealed by counsel Fitzgerald. More generally, heightened terror alerts or the perceived dangers of an avian flu pandemic, could also be used to trigger emergency procedures with a view to creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, in a letter to the Deputy Attorney General, has called for Special Counsel Fitzgerald "to expand his investigation to include a criminal investigation to examine whether the President, the Vice President, and members of the White House Iraq Group conspired to deliberately deceive Congress into authorizing the war in Iraq."

This initiative follows that of Congressman John Conyers and 90 other Congressional Democrats who addressed a letter to President Bush regarding "a coordinated effort to fix the intelligence and facts to justify the war. Congressman Conyers and other Congressional Democrats on June 16 held an unofficial hearing concerning the Downing Street Memo that resembled an impeachment inquiry."


Congressman Nadler's letter to the Deputy Attorney General points to the "'White House Iraq Group' whose sole purpose appears to have been to market and sell a decision to go to war to Congress..."

The letter also points to the leaked Downing Street memo:

"Although Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation has yet to determine whether a crime was committed by any Administration official(s) in leaking the identity of Wilson's wife as a covert CIA operative, it is abundantly clear that the White House Iraq Group was engaged in an effort to discredit revelations of the falsity of the Administration's justifications for the war, and to intimidate and punish those who would reveal the truth.... We now know that top Administration officials, including Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, I. Lewis Libby, misrepresented to the media the scope and nature of what the U.S. intelligence community knew and didn't know about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs before the war.

It is self-evident that the Administration cannot investigate itself in this matter. I therefore urge you to expand the Special Counsel's investigation to include these matters crucial to our national security and national integrity."

For full text of the letter to the Deputy Attorney General )


An impeachment procedure could be undermined by the Administration in a number of ways.

We recall, in this regard, how Clinton launched punitive bombing raids on the Sudan and Afghanistan on the day Monica Lewinsky was summoned before a grand jury in August 1998. The bombing raids immediately contributed to deflecting attention from the issue of impeachment. (August 21, 1998). Similarly, a few months later, December 16, 1998, Clinton ordered the bombing of Iraq. The bombs were dropped on Baghdad on the very same day as the launching of an impeachment motion in the House of Representatives. Overriding the UN Security Council, Sec of State Madeleine Albright had ordered the withdrawal of UN weapons inspectors, who left Iraq on December 15th, a day prior to the impeachment motion.

To galvanize public support, Cheney and Rumsfeld could take the opportunity of the UN report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, to launch (in collaboration with Israel) punitive bombings against Syria. Military action against Syria is already contemplated and has been part of the US military agenda since 2003.

An impeachment process directed against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. would inevitably undermine the entire neoconservative construct. Iit would also backlash on the Pentagon's top military brass. If criminal charges are laid, Vice President Cheney would be one of the main targets:

The Oct. 11 grand jury appearance by New York Times reporter Judith Miller has shifted the focus of attention to Cheney's office. Miller's hour-long testimony, according to news accounts, focussed on a third meeting that she had with Cheney's chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby in June 2003--a month prior to the publication of Valerie Plame's name in a Robert Novak syndicated column. Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, was "outed" by Novak as a CIA officer. Novak reported that he had been given Plame's name by two "senior administration officials," now widely believed to be Libby and President Bush's chief political counsel Karl Rove.

However, Fitzgerald's probe, from the outset, has centered on an obscure but powerful White House unit, the White House Iraq Group, which was constituted in July-August 2002, to coordinate all Bush-Cheney Administration efforts to win support for an Iraq invasion. Rove and Libby, along with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, her deputy Stephen Hadley, White House Counsellor Karen Hughes, and a half-dozen other White House and NSC senior staffers were all part of the WHIG. (See Jeffrey Steinberg )

In the eventuality of criminal charges and/or an impeachment procedure, a national emergency could be used to suspend the legal procedures required to carry out the indictments against key Bush administration officials.

In other words, the Administration could use a national disaster as a pretext for Martial law, in which case all criminal charges would be thwarted through the (temporary) suspension of constitutional government. Under a Code Red alert, US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) would take over the functions of civilian administration.

Posted by: Che | November 13, 2005 10:34 AM

As a Canadian citizen, I am naturally very interested in what's happening south of our border, since it reflects on my daily life.
Please allow me the following comment:
Anyone who would have told me 20 years ago that our American neighbours would be severely cutting up their Habeas Corpus or seriously discussing the advisability of using torture against ennemies would have been branded as a crackpot immediately. Yet, it's happening!!

What's going on down there?

Posted by: Bertin | November 13, 2005 11:08 AM

'cruel and unusual' is the divisive line here. Some have stated that the Abu Gharaib amounts to little more than fraternity pranks. Perhaps, within the scope of Western fraternity culture, naked pledge pyramids and the infamous 'donut trick' qualify as lewd and disgusting, but not torture.

Yet, posting pictures of captured soliders or their mutilated corpses does qualify.

Military interrogators carefully read 'The Arab Mind' before the war and decided to use sexual humiliation as an interrogation technique. The trouble? Arabs consider sexual humiliation as 'cruel and unusual'. Yet, pictures of mutiliated corpes are aired every day on al-Jazeera.

What this administration, and many Americans, have failed to grasp is that the Geneva conventions and UN regulations were crafted to allow this sort of ambiguity. Attempts to modify this ambiguity into arguments for torture display a lack of comprehension of international law as well as cultural perceptions and differences.

This administrations lack of cultural empathy has cost us dearly in Iraq, the Arab world, and the world as a whole. The Kuwaitis seem, however, to understand the differences. Note that the English language broadcasts and coverage often omit photos of mangled corpses.

As for torture itself, the experts provide a more nuanced explanation. Torture does not seem to work to derrive information as the subject often seeks to tell the torturer whatever they feel he/she wants to hear to make the pain stop. If, however, we are talking about torture as a method for terrorizing a population into subservience, torture seems to function quite well.

Of course, use of torture for civil order places one within the good company of Egypt, Syria, Ba'athist Iraq, and Iran.

Posted by: chris | November 13, 2005 06:41 PM

Has America abandoned it roots in Guantanamo Bay?

"...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..."

With these powerful words the American Revolution began. One of the greatest concepts of the Declaration of Independence is the notion that human rights exist apart from law and that humans cannot be alienated from them by any government. Law-centric American-born loyalists to the crown of England took the actions of the revolutionists to be treasonous as did King George himself. How then do we reconcile rights vs. law?

The Declaration of Independence both pre-dates and is foundational to the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence declared the human rights that the Constitution was written to protect. If at any time something lawful is not right, then the law must be immediately changed. Human rights trump law. We know that from time-to-time there are laws which are not right. The laws that protected slavery are a glaring example. This is important because the Bush administration says the detention center at Guantanamo Bay is legal. Just because something is strictly legal doesn't make it right.

There is something very disturbing and transparent with the Bush administration's choice of Guantanamo Bay as the location of this detention center. It was a sophomoric attempt to find a place that is out of the jurisdiction of any non-military court and answers (by way of the U.S. military) only to George W. Bush! We are not fooled. Does anyone but me also think this is both wrong and dangerous? If the Bush administration thinks they have the moral and legal right to detain these people, then let them house the detainees on American soil. They won't do this because they know their legal arguments will not stand the light of day under the Constitution. So the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay violates the Declaration of Independence, and if given a jurisdictional chance, would also violate the U.S. Constitution.

The Bush administration says the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are not citizens and are not under the protection of the Constitution. It's appalling that the leaders of our nation are so ignorant of our foundations as a nation. So these detainees have no human rights? Was George out sick the day his school taught American history?

Think about this for a moment. The detainees do not have access to any non-military U.S court or any foreign court. They will remain in detention until King George, I mean, President George says they can go free. I thought America is supposed to be protecting inalienable rights? There should be no place on earth that is not under the jurisdiction of some court and it is unconscionable that anyone's freedom is withheld on the whim of one man.

There are some readers who might, at this point, think I am weak on defending America from those who would like to murder us all so let me say this. I have no problem with war-time detention centers. I have no problem with detaining those who have murderous intentions. I have no problem with the use of "psychological" techniques in order to obtain information to save American lives. What I do have a problem with is the indefinite detention of individuals without access to courts, review, lawyers, or some kind of clearly-stated policy that describes the conditions for release.

Some may say I have more sympathy for the terrorists and their plight at Guantanamo Bay than is warranted. After all we ARE at war and lives are at stake. Actually, I have no sympathy for terrorists. My sympathy is for due process within our government. If those held at Guantanamo Bay are, in fact, threats to our security, then incarceration is preferable to their re-entry into the conflict against us. What I cannot live with is the indefinite detention of individuals with no end in sight, no policy for release, no charges made, no access to review or appeal, no due process.

The Bush administration points to past detentions as precedents for what is now happening in Guantanamo Bay. These analogies, however, break down. First, the "war on terror" is a war without end. It is a war that may go on for decades. Is Bush saying the detainees will be there until the war ends, i.e. indefinitely?

Second, the Bush administration wants to have its cake and eat it too when it comes to the status of the detainees as "unlawful combatants" under the Geneva Conventions. Bush says that even though we are fighting an unconventional war, we are conforming to the Geneva Conventions which applies to conventional wars, except that the detainees are not subject to the Geneva Conventions because they are unlawful-combatants. Got that? If we are fighting a war according the the Geneva Conventions then just who are the lawful combatants? Can we have a war fought under the Geneva Conventions with no lawful combatants? This disingenuous doublespeak is standard fare for our truth-challenged president. Bush conveniently uses the rules of conventional warfare when it suits him, then abandons those rules when he wants to point out this is NOT a conventional war. If Bush wasn't a pathological liar and could be trusted for an honest answer, we might ask him, "Mr. President: Are we in a conventional war or not?"

How can we make the claim that we are fighting a lawful war according to the Geneva Conventions when the only enemies out there are unlawful-combatants?

Ok, here's my take. Interrogate the detainees and charge them with some crime. If they were caught in arms against us, then that ought to be a chargeable offense. If that isn't then let's pass a law that says it IS a chargeable offense! If they are not chargeable, then let them go. We should not hold people indefinitely. That would be alienating them from their inalienable rights.

Posted by: John | November 14, 2005 11:47 AM

President Bush II has proposed a 5 Billions $ budget cut in welfare costs in the next 5 years. The Iraq war is financed by taxes paid by all americans. Most of the Marines come from poor families. Iraq had no MDW, as Bush II and Blair stated. In Iraq there is a lot of oil and there was a dictator who had served USA Government for years by making war to Iran.
Do serious questions really exist about why this war is going on?

Posted by: C. Lapalisse | December 1, 2005 03:15 AM

Dear readers,

Today is a sad for our country, the democratic country we thought we where living does no exist any more, they have already taken control of the radio and television networks, and don't forget the newspapers. Mr. Arkin has arranged that I will be blocked from this site in the future(I mean, how can some links to independent news sites hurt Mr. Arkin so much?, what are you afraid of Mr. Arkin? is it so hard to get some real facts?(from trustfully news organizations) and not just corporate media news propaganda, the only spectrum you give is that of, I go for the Republicans,but if they push it too far on the economic warfare level then we go for the funny Democrats, that are all the possible possibilities, nothing more!(I understand that you are trying to make a career at the Washington Post, but do you have to sell yourself for so little?

For the readers who are interested in the real news, I will like to ask you to bookmark the following sites:

I will like to end with a quote from the father of our current president:

"The truth will get you poor or dead"

That's all folkes, take care.


Posted by: Che | December 10, 2005 02:02 PM

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