Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 4, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

A FIRM STAND ON TORTURE....In the Weekly Standard, Tom Donnelly and Vance Serchuk argue that Congress should pass clear guidelines prohibiting abuse of detainees in Iraq and elsewhere:

The relevant legislation proposed by Senator John McCain and supported by a who's who of retired military and intelligence officers would go a long way toward ending the climate of confusion and uncertainty that has contributed to abuses at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere.

In opposing the legislation, the Pentagon argues that it is not Congress's place to be arbiter of the rules for treatment of detainees, insisting that it alone should wield that power....[But] despite the unique challenges posed by the war on terror, the Congress and Republican conservatives, in particular should be skeptical when the executive branch says, in effect, "Just trust us."

....The consequences of the failure to set a clear standard for the treatment of detainees are plain to see. Again, set aside the obvious impact of Abu Ghraib and consider the less-publicized deaths at Bagram, which created a dangerous irritant in U.S.-Afghan relations. President Karzai, for instance, spent his trip to the United States on the defensive, forced to justify why he was calling for a long-term strategic partnership with Washington including long-term access by the U.S. military to Afghan bases in light of the murder of Afghan citizens by American soldiers. We're not only making it easier for our enemies to hate us, but harder for our friends to love us.

Italics mine. It's telling that George Bush, the first president in over a century who hasn't vetoed a single bill, has finally threatened a veto over this. Despite the events of Abu Ghraib, Bagram, the 82nd Airborne, and over a dozen separate reports detailing gruesome abuses of captives around the world, the one thing that Bush thinks is worth his veto pen is a set of clear guidelines telling our own military and the rest of the world that America believes in treating prisoners decently.

This is, once again, a test for moderate Republicans in Congress. There's no excuse not to pass this legislation, which largely codifies rules the Pentagon claims to be following anyway, and centrist Republicans should join John McCain and congressional Democrats in voting for it. If Bush insists on vetoing the guidelines, so be it. He will have shown us his true heart at last.

Kevin Drum 1:12 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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