Friday, September 22, 2006


McCain looks like he might get his legal torture bill, which is less than a torn fig leaf from what the Prez wanted. So let us look at torture a bit. Until Bush took office, the U.S. had no problem defining what is cruel and inhuman:
Our Constitution prohibits 'cruel and unusual punishment.' That's vague too, but our courts have always managed to define it. As the Supreme Court put it in the 2002 case Hope vs. Pelzer, the argument that a standard is vague and provides insufficient notice of what's prohibited just doesn't cut it sometimes. Some practices are just plain 'antithetical to human dignity' and characterized by 'obvious' and 'inherent' cruelty.

True, one man's degradation may be another man's idea of a rousing good time. But unless the administration is claiming that U.S. detainees are grateful for the opportunity to wear dog collars and be dragged around on leashes, 'degrading treatment' isn't a terribly vague concept in practice. And are there people — other than psychopaths — who honestly can't figure out whether repeatedly suffocating a prisoner while pouring water over his mouth and nose is cruel or inhuman?

If in doubt, take any of the 'alternative' methods that Bush wants to use on U.S. detainees and imagine someone using those methods on your son or daughter. If the bad guys captured your son and tossed him, naked, into a cell kept at a temperature just slightly higher than an average refrigerator, then repeatedly doused him with ice water to induce hypothermia, would that be OK? What if they shackled him to a wall for days so he couldn't sit or lie down without hanging his whole body weight on his arms? What if they threatened to rape and kill his wife, or pretended they were burying him alive? What if they did all these things by turns? Would you have any problem deciding that these methods are cruel?"
Georgetown law professor Marty Lederman:
"It's not subtle at all, and it only takes 30 seconds or so to see that the senators have capitulated entirely, that the U.S. will hereafter violate the Geneva Conventions by engaging in cold cell, long time standing, etc., and that there will be very little pretense about it. In addition to the elimination of habeas rights in section 6, the bill would delegate to the president the authority to interpret 'the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions' 'for the United States,' except that the bill itself would define certain 'grave breaches' of Common Article 3 to be war crimes.
The administration is also still asking for approval to legalize its stripping of the "Great Writ" of habeas corpus. A lot of respected judges, what do they know, wrote to Congress:
The so-called Great Writ is a bedrock principle of liberty dating to 1215 and the Magna Carta. It entitles a prisoner to demand to be brought before a neutral judge to force the government to prove the legality of his or her detention or be set free. It is the quintessential check on executive power.
Tony Snow clarified things today and declared it was the President's duty and authority to interpret the Constitution, not the Supreme Court's. He conceded they "can be" an arbiter of the Constitution but mainly they are guys in black funny robes who can advise the President and make sure he gets elected.

Democrats: "We had really hoped the White House had caved, but it's looking more and more like the senators caved."

No comments: