October 21, 2006

Don't Start Torturing Yet

Bush and Cheney must be wondering where did all the good help go? And for God's sake, where's the gratitude after the administration bent over backwards to get the Congress to cover the ass of the CIA for fighting the war on terror?

Evidently Bush's shiny new bill wasn't enough. After all, whether or not someone decides that a particular action is cruel is not based on what Cheney's understanding of cruelty is, but on the understanding of others who could be shocked by the cruelty of the interrogation methods Bush is so fond of. And others who one day might be responsible for judging CIA agents for the actions they took under Bush's say-so might find a CIA agent guilty of war crimes since the US has already judged others guilty of war crimes for these very same actions.

You can't blame the CIA for demanding clear authorization. It reportedly was using waterboarding (a terrifying mock execution in which a prisoner is strapped to a board and convinced he is being drowned), dousing naked prisoners with water in 50-degree cold and forcing shackled prisoners to stand for 40 straight hours.

Should the CIA be worried? Yes. The United States has prosecuted every one of these techniques as a war crime. So when Congress passed the McCain amendment last fall banning cruel treatment, CIA interrogators reportedly stopped working. Vice President Cheney had sought an exemption for the CIA -- but didn't get one. The administration apparently pushed the interrogators hard to resume their tactics, saying these techniques were still legal, but the CIA refused.

As Stephen Rickard writes, many of the statements around Bush's torture bill can be interpreted as being quite clear that Bush's standards won't necessarily set the bar, but rather what more normal people believe is cruel could be the standard. And some of the "interrogation methods" that Bush finds so effective are known to be inherently cruel and thus falling directly under the prohibited actions proscribed by this bill.

[Bush] needs to convince CIA interrogators that they now have congressional carte blanche.

They don't. In fact, if they yield to White House pressure to renew brutal interrogations, they will be at greater risk than they were last fall.

The bill's language on torture is far from perfect, and it has many other objectionable provisions. It should have been rejected. But on its face it criminalizes cruel treatment. An interrogator can go to prison if a court finds that the techniques used caused "serious" mental or physical "suffering," which need not be "prolonged." According to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the administration agrees that this rules out waterboarding.

As for hypothermia, prolonged sleep deprivation and stress positions, does the CIA really want to put that question to a jury? Legions of highly qualified experts would line up to testify that these techniques cause severe, prolonged suffering. The CIA knows this. It funded some of the seminal studies on the subject.

Bush believes his bill has provided a great cover to continue interrogation under his rules, but it is not one that reasonable people would be willing to test. That fact alone should put a damper on Bush and Cheney's fun. After all, it was Cheney's mentor, Henry Kissinger, who realized that sanctioning war crimes could be dangerous to your health long after the crime and because there isn't a statute of limitations that governs crimes against humanity, war criminals need to be aware they will always be prosecutable despite what Bush and Cheney say.

Check out BagNewsNotes' piece on the signing of this bill. It sure seems that the President is sick and tired of being on the defensive. Here's his great victory, and people aren't giving him the due he believes he's owed.

Here's Bag's picture of the ceremony.

And here's the one from Reuters when Bush signed the bill. Pretty stark contrast if you ask me.


One can feel the anger rolling off Bush these days.

Posted by Mary at October 21, 2006 11:31 AM | War on Terrorism | Technorati links |

In that bottom picture he is looking up with that mean look in his piggy little eyes. Makes you wonder what the photographer had to do to get the sideboys to grin and drool and clap like that.

Posted by: Scorpio at October 22, 2006 08:01 AM