Torture and Indefinite Detention Bill

Well, there is not much to say. Tristero over at Digby's Hullabaloo reminds us that the whole purpose of the bill was Kabuki theatre. The US Government is already doing everything we fear that it is. There were two purposes to the bill: one was to assert the theoretical right of Congress to regulate such activities by passing a law that legalizes the existing practices and, two, to lay a political trap for the DC Democrats by forcing them to vote against tactics the President says are necessary for the war on Terror.

Whatever small and vague limitations on executive power that certain Republican 'moderates' wanted to include in the bill were lost last week. Once it was clear that the bill would pass, the administration juiced up the bill with everything they would ever want.

The DC democrats did not rise to the bait offered. While opposing the bill, and reaching almost complete caucus unanimity on some amendments, it was clear that they did not plan a filibuster. Nothing would have pleased the Republicans more than a filibuster against the bill, allowing them to go to the electorate with the Democrats supposedly obstructing the war on terror on Capitol Hill. They have the votes of the Democrats against the bill to work with, but that was going to be true the minute the bills were introduced.

The GOP in DC is not unlike the Dems in DC. They forget that the winning and losing tactical battles around legislation in DC does translate to the rest of the country. The Republicans won this skirmish in Washington, but at what cost. They confirmed all across the country that the GOP stands for torture, indefinite detention and unchallenged executive power.

I believe that the hidden question moving this election is the question : is the modern Republican party seriously out of control and dangerously unchecked? Democrats have thought so for quite a while (since the impeachment of Clinton in fact), but now independents and moderates are just as concerned. And, if it is true, the traditional solution is well-known, and at hand: vote to divide government between the parties.

I think that the DC GOP outmaneuvered the DC Dems, but weakened themselves around the rest of the country. I think that when they run their inevitable ads that Senator X voted against the torture bill, it will not help them, because it confirms the worst suspicions about the GOP. They are losing the middle, and proving that they are more willing to torture people is not going to help them.


  1. We've never granted access to US courts to POWs, or those captured fighting outside the rules of war.

    I see no reason to start doing that.

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammad beheaded Danny Pearl and hacked him into ten pieces.

    Now Khalid sits in Gitmo. It was moral to waterboard him to gather intel on who else he would butcher.

    It is moral for him to sit in Gitmo for the duration of the war, or face a Military Tribunal which could, quite morally, have him shot for waging war outside the rules of war, or bound over to a court for committing War Crimes.

    It would me appalling to grant Khalid access to US Courts because he is really no criminal. He's declared War which he fights outside the rules of war. He's placed himself outside all boundaries; and once captured (if not outright killed) such combatants have no rights.... there is no moral reason to change that long held view.

  2. Unfortunately for you, Bill, The US Supreme Court does not agree with your definition of morality. The War Crimes Act requires that the US personnel adhere to the standards of the Geneva Convention in the treatment of detainees. That includes the right to some sort of regularly established military tribunals. The Hamdan decision indicated that the military tribunals set up adhoc by the executive branch do not fit that standard.
    You invoke Sheik Khalid Mohammad, which is a rhetorical ploy of a demagogue. The implication is that all of the detainees are the same as Khalid. The fact is that we do not know that as a fact, because the only evidence that we have for that is that they have been detained. Our government has not had to make any sort of case to anyone that these men are guilty or dangerous to us. It turns out that many are not. If we established all our legal procedures based on what the very worst and seemingly most guilty person deserves, it would be rule by lynch mob. It would be as though we said that anyone caught associating with right-wing militarist groups in the US automatically deserves death because it is what Tim McVeigh deserved.
    Your invocation of the Sheik aside, the law as passed actually makes whatever happened to the Sheik legal to be done to you or me, if the Executive branch decides that our actions support terrorism. Are you willing to give that level of power to any and all Presidents, past, present and future of the USA?
    You claim that what is at stake is that they be given access to US courts. This is also rhetorical demogoguery. It has never been argued by anyone that they be tried in US courts, (although that has been done in the past, successfully), but that the congress establish tribunals to which the government must present a case explaining why they hold these people, and to give the detainee the right to see the evidence against them, in some form. Establishing some right of habeas corpus is not necessarily equivalent to access to the US criminal courts.
    Finally you invoke the morality of waterboarding to save further lives -- the extreme case of the so called ticking time bomb scenario. A third case of rhetorical demogoguery: The question is not the morality of what might be required in extreme cases, but what is determined to be legal in any case. By including waterboarding in the toolbox of interrogation, then the question shifts from "was it really necessary to waterboard that guy?" to "since that guy did not tell us about an impending attack, how can we say that we have completely questioned him, if we did not waterboard him?" Why stop there?
    This law, and this administration are what our Founders warned us against.


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