Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Torture Party

Calvin Trillin, the Nation's deadline poet, has a gem in last week's issue, "George Bush Explains His Policy on Torture to Someone Who Is Being Waterboarded":

An "alternate set of procedures"
Is what we're applying right now.
So please don't confuse this with torture,
That's something I'd never allow.

I know when you feel you are drowning,
You're thinking, "They're torturing me!"
But torture is not what we call it,
So torture it simply can't be.

You're lucky Americans got you,
If torture's the thing that you dread.
An alternate set of procedures
Is what we're applying instead.
It's no joke though.

President Bush thinks that the words "torture", "cruel treatment", "outrages against human dignity," and "humiliating and degrading treatment"are terribly vague and confusing, and they simply must be "clarified." Otherwise, how would anyone know whether "waterboarding, hypothermia and sleep deprivation" are allowed by the Geneva Conventions?

Here's the transcript from his petulant foot-stomping in the Rose Garden, where he refused to say where he stands on torture and what he wants to make more "clear" in its legality.

Newsweek reports that even so-called "maverick" Republican John McCain "and the other GOP senators have indicated they would be willing to amend domestic U.S. law, especially the War Crimes Act, to permit at least some 'enhanced' CIA techniques. They are also willing to pass legislation that would deny many rights to detainees at Guantánamo Bay and allow them to be held indefinitely."

Ah, compromise. No need for trials or evidence, because the Bush Administration never makes mistakes. Right?

Oh, wait:
Arar, now 36, was detained by U.S. authorities as he changed planes in New York on Sept. 26, 2002. He was held for questioning for 12 days, then flown by jet to Jordan and driven to Syria. He was beaten, forced to confess to having trained in Afghanistan -- where he never has been -- and then kept in a coffin-size dungeon for 10 months before he was released, the Canadian inquiry commission found.

The Washington Post editorialized about Bush's so-called "program" of torture and indefinite detention without trial:
Throughout the world and for decades, such practices have been called torture. That's what the United States called them when they were used by the Soviet KGB. As the president himself tacitly acknowledges, they violate Geneva and other international conventions as well as current U.S. law.
That doesn't stop Republican William Kristol, a man who has been magnificently wrong about almost everything he has written or said for the past decade (see, e.g. Iraq; see also Iran, coming soon), from writing a sickening article called "The Trap" in the Weekly Standard, in which he urges Republicans to run as the pro-torture candidates so that Democratic candidates fall into Bush's "trap" and appear "weak" on "terror."

Andrew Sullivan responds: "The capitulation of neoconservatism to the evil it once fought against is now complete."

No doubt. The New York Times has this to say:
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.


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