SCOOP LINK: The Washington Post
A Defining Moment for
The president goes to Capitol Hill to lobby for torture.
The Washington Post | Editorial
Friday 15 September 2006
President Bush rarely visits Congress. So it was a measure of his painfully skewed priorities that Mr. Bush made the unaccustomed trip yesterday to seek legislative permission for the CIA to make people disappear into secret prisons and have information extracted from them by means he dare not describe publicly.
Of course, Mr. Bush didn't come out and say he's lobbying for torture. Instead he refers to "an alternative set of procedures" for interrogation. But the administration no longer conceals what it wants. It wants authorization for the CIA to hide detainees in overseas prisons where even the International Committee of the Red Cross won't have access. It wants permission to interrogate those detainees with abusive practices that in the past have included induced hypothermia and "waterboarding," or simulated drowning. And it wants the right to try such detainees, and perhaps sentence them to death, on the basis of evidence that the defendants cannot see and that may have been extracted during those abusive interrogation sessions.
There's no question that the United States is facing a dangerous foe that uses the foulest of methods. But a wide array of generals and others who should know argue that it is neither prudent nor useful for the United States to compromise its own values in response. "I continue to read and hear that we are facing a 'different enemy' in the war on terror," retired Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) this week. "No matter how true that may be, inhumanity and cruelty are not new to warfare nor to enemies we have faced in the past.... Through those years, we held to our own values. We should continue to do so."
LINK: New York Times
Published: September 17, 2006
Watching the president on Friday in the Rose Garden as he threatened to quit interrogating terrorists if Congress did not approve his detainee bill, we were struck by how often he acts as though there were not two sides to a debate. We have lost count of the number of times he has said Americans have to choose between protecting the nation precisely the way he wants, and not protecting it at all.
On Friday, President Bush posed a choice between ignoring the law on wiretaps, and simply not keeping tabs on terrorists. Then he said the United States could rewrite the Geneva Conventions, or just stop questioning terrorists. To some degree, he is following a script for the elections: terrify Americans into voting Republican. But behind that seems to be a deeply seated conviction that under his leadership, America is right and does not need the discipline of rules. He does not seem to understand that the rules are what makes this nation as good as it can be.
The debate over prisoners is not about whether some field agent can dunk Osama bin Laden’s head to learn the location of the ticking bomb, as one senator suggested last week. It is about whether the United States can confront terrorism without shredding our democratic heritage. This nation is built on the notion that the rules restrain our behavior, because we know we’re fallible. Just look at the hundreds of men in Guantánamo Bay, many guilty of nothing, facing unending detention because Mr. Bush did not want to follow the rules after 9/11.
Now Mr. Bush insists that in cleaning up his mess, Congress should exempt C.I.A. interrogators from the Geneva Conventions. “The bottom line is simple: If Congress passes a law that does not clarify the rules — if they do not do that — the program’s not going forward,” Mr. Bush said. But clarity is not the issue. The Geneva Conventions are clear and provide ample room for interrogating terrorists. Similarly, in the debate over eavesdropping on terrorists’ conversations, Mr. Bush says that if he has to get a warrant, he can’t do it at all. Actually, he has ample authority to eavesdrop on terrorists, under the very law he is breaking, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act....
The best thing Congress could do for America right now is to drop this issue and let the courts decide the matter. Mr. Bush can’t claim urgency; it’s not as though he has stopped the wiretapping....