Torture Nation

USA – Still better than North Vietnam. Just less so.

Center for American Progress, Fool Me Twice: The letter of the Conventions was certainly preserved: the bill refuses the president’s demand that Congress rewrite the law to reinterpret U.S. obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

But their integrity and spirit is another matter.

Instead of reinterpreting the Conventions directly, the bill does so indirectly, granting the president the authority to issue his own interpretations and making them virtually unchallengeable in court. The bill strips detainees of the ability to challenge the factual and legal basis for their confinement. And it confers retroactive immunity on government officials responsible for serious human rights violations by permitting prosecutions under the War Crimes Act of only the grossest abuses.

What this means is that instead of curbing the secret detention and abuse of terrorist suspects, the bill would authorize the president to continue these practices. While certain “grave breaches”� of the Geneva Conventions would be outlawed, the bill leaves ambiguous which of the catalogue of “alternative interrogation procedures” employed by the CIA would be prohibited.

And, of course, Marty Lederman, Oh, Well, That Explains It:

Courtesy of the New York Times, here’s your very own handy-dandy pocket-sized flow chart for understanding what the “compromise” legislation would, and would not, prohibit.

And now, just for kicks, compare that to this alternative description of what the law forbids:

“[T]he following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to [detainees]: violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture.”

Which statement of the law is more “vague” and ambiguous?

Trainwreck in slow motion. Right before your eyes.

We have to do something — but what?

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9 Responses to Torture Nation

  1. BroD says:

    “We have to do something — but what?”

    Oppose it strenuously BUT not by diverting focus, effort or money from Job One (winning elections.)

    Everybody–and I mean everybody–should express strong opposition to their reps.

    This is a moment of historic decision that merits witness: the Senate is poised to sanction torture and revoke fundamental legal protections which Americans justly prize as their patriotic legacy.

    I envision small even informal actions everywhere–folks with flags and signs that read “Stand up for America: No Torture. No exceptions.” I’m getting organized to do just that in D.C. next week-end.

    In my wildest dreams, I recall Yeltsin’s disorganized stand-off at the Kremlin: no mobilization, no permit, no speeches–just people witnessing the moment.

    As for the Democrats within the hall? ATTACK! FILLIBUSTER! I really believe the country will respond and rally. Look at the poll numbers (and half of the folks who still approve of Bush do so with a queasy feeling–they know this isn’t the America they were brought up to believe in or the one they want to leave to their kids.)

    But remember: the most important thing is to win elections and take back the House and maybe even the Senate.

  2. “We have to do something — but what?”

    First off: stop paying for it. Really. Stop paying taxes. Stop giving your money to this government and then trying to make up for it with a bunch of hot air. To the government your opinion doesn’t count, your vote doesn’t count (not really), but you know there’s someone in Washington counting your money.

    I’m skeptical that “winning elections” is what we need to do right now – try to find a principled zero tolerance policy on torture in what passes for the opposition party! Remember how Kerry refused to even mention torture or Abu Ghraib during his campaign?

  3. What to do?

    Brand the party formerly known as “Republicans” as “Torture Party” in the coming elections.

    I don’t agree with your “Torture Nation” title of the post. It seems to be too early to hold all Americans responsible for this outrage.

    However, that might change if the result of the next elections is anything else than a resounding defeat of the Torture Party.

  4. Chris Beck says:

    One word – fillibuster.
    On this, and the wiretap bill.

  5. Chris Beck says:

    Question – does the absolution of crimes committed in the past count as an ex-post-facto law?

  6. Michael says:

    No – the law permits pardons and clemency and retroactive non-criminality on the (ordinarily justified) theory that what we need protection from is the heavy hand of the state.

  7. I was musing if there could be a “Torture-In”, where one would invite prominent pundits to be waterboarded or cold-roomed themselves to prove their belief that it wasn’t torture. But I doubt it’d work as a media event, and too much potential to backfire in terms of the gruesome aspect.

  8. John Stein says:

    I wrote both of my Senators, and one point I tried to make was that they need to speak publicly and explain, as clearly as possible, what habeas corpus is about. Even after (or maybe especially after) all those courtroom dramas on TV, I bet most Americans still think it’s a “loophole”. They don’t realize its importance nor its history.

  9. Ugh says:

    The bookstore moved Kafka’s “The Trial” to the current events section.

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