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January 23, 2005 - Torture and Offending Everyone

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Andrew Sullivan hits it on the head. (Bad choice of words.)


America is now a torturing nation, under any reasonable definition of the word "torture."  This is president Bush's achievement.  Or so says this guy.


See this -


GONZALES' ANSWERS: Marty Lederman goes through the fine print of the Senate responses from the nominee to run the Justice Department.  Plenty of reason to delay the vote on his confirmation.  Money quote:


The responses confirm what has been manifest for a while now: The Administration has concluded that the CIA, when it interrogates suspected Al Qaeda detainees overseas, may lawfully engage in "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment--i.e., treatment that would "shock the conscience," and thus be unconstitutional, within the United States--as long as that treatment does not constitute "torture" under the very narrow meaning of that term in the federal criminal law.


Translation: America is now a torturing nation, under any reasonable definition of the word "torture". This is president Bush's achievement.  When Gonzales was given an opportunity to disown such practices as "forced enemas, infliction of cigarette burns, and binding detainees hand and foot and leaving them in urine and feces for 18-24 hours," he replied that it was not appropriate for him to "attempt to analyze" the legality of such techniques. We want this guy for AG? 

Lederman also notes how the administration, despite saying that the war in Iraq falls under the Geneva Conventions, nevertheless exempts insurgents from the protections. How convenient. So it's open season for any suspected insurgent in U.S. custody in Iraq. (And the word "suspected" is apposite here. The dozens of inmates abused at Abu Ghraib were part of a random intake that was up to 90 percent innocent.) Abu Ghraib begins to make more sense, doesn't it, as does the pattern of abusive behavior by scattered U.S. (and now British) troops across the areas of combat. Then there's this:


Moreover, Gonzales suggests that the Fourth Geneva Convention, with its protection of civilians, no longer applies to civilians detained by the U.S. now that the U.S. is no longer an occupying power.


Wow. Once sovereignty was transferred, we're no longer at war and therefore no longer formally bound by Geneva. I can't imagine how stressed out soldiers might feel they've been told they can treat Iraqi civilians however they want. Given these responses, a vote for Gonzales is to my mind very hard to defend. What he didn't say was legion; what he did say was chilling.


In these pages there has been much on this – see January 9, 2005 - AG for AG and What to do About SS for example.  Sullivan can carry on.


Offending Everyone



This from retiring Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage:


"I'm disappointed that Iraq hasn't turned out better. And that we weren't able to move forward more meaningfully in the Middle East peace process."


Then, after a minute's pause, he adds a third regret: "The biggest regret is that we didn't stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot."


Oh well.  Now we think that we might have acted differently.  No way to repair the damage.  And this Dick should know that’s exactly what we wanted to export.  That was intentional.


From Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -


Alan, I think it may be you're being too tough on "this Dick".


One always got the sense from watching Armitage's public statements that, although he never quite crossed over the line of political propriety, he obviously favored the diplomatic approach of the state department in international affairs over the ham-fisted path chosen by the Pentagon and the rest of the administration.  It's just that, now that he's on his way out, he finds it easier to share a hint of his own personal opinions.


I must admit, when I first saw him, I was put off by that haircut and his bulldog appearance, but in time I became very impressed with his thinking process.  I'm also convinced that if he and his boss, Colin Powell, had gotten their way, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today.  This is not to say I would have voted for Bush, but my objections to him might not have been on his being the biggest foreign affairs screw-up president of all time


And Thomas Friedman belabors the obvious about Europe -


An American in Paris 

Thomas L. Friedman – New York Times - January 20, 2005


His conclusion?


Before Mr. Bush's re-election, the prevailing attitude in Europe was definitely: "We're not anti-American. We're anti-Bush." But now that the American people have voted to re-elect Mr. Bush, Europe has a problem maintaining this distinction. The logic of the Europeans' position is that they should now be anti-American, not just anti-Bush, but most Europeans don't seem to want to go there. They know America is more complex. So there is a vague hope in the air that when Mr. Bush visits Europe next month, he'll come bearing an olive branch that will enable both sides to at least pretend to hold this loveless marriage together for the sake of the kids.


"Europeans were convinced that Kerry had won on election night and were telling themselves that they knew all along that Americans were not all that bad - and then suddenly, as the truth emerged, there was a feeling of slow resignation: 'Oh well, we've been dreaming,' " said Dominique Moisi, one of France's top foreign policy analysts. "In fact, real America is moving away from us. We don't share the same values. ... In France it was a very emotional issue. It was as if Americans were voting for the president of France as much as for president of the United States."


… The one concrete result of the U.S. election will probably be to reinforce Europe's focus on its own efforts to build a United States of Europe, and to further play down the trans-Atlantic alliance. "When it comes to emotions, the re-election of Bush has reinforced the feeling of alienation between Europe and the U.S.," Mr. Moisi said. "It is not that we are so much against America, it is that we cannot understand the evolution of that country. ... This election has weakened the concept of 'the West.' "


No way to repair the damage.







Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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