THE GREAT VICTORY ON TORTURE John McCain “won” on Thursday is now over. Open now the gates of hell and of Guantanamo. Torture is back in business, big time. What the left hand gives, the right takes away. Rights and dignity in McCain’s measure against “torture” sit side by side with a Graham amendment in a single Defense spending bill. Justice and decency are bid for in the dropping of coins from our national treaury, then they drop from sight. Let the victory tour roll on. The Graham Levin amendment limits appeals of detainees for justice and um not incidentally allows “coerced testimony” to be used in military courts.
Thomas B. Wilner, a lawyer who represents a group of Kuwaiti detainees at Guantánamo Bay, said in an interview that the new language would render the McCain restrictions unenforceable at the Cuban prison. "If McCain is one small step forward, enactment of this language would be two giant steps backwards," Mr. Wilner said. Two of the main Senate sponsors of the measure, Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, defended the changes made to the language that the Senate passed last month, 84 to 14. Mr. Graham acknowledged the measure's intention to make it possible to use information obtained by coercive interrogation techniques in military panels that evaluate whether detainees at Guantánamo are being rightfully held as "enemy combatants." He argued that the techniques were not abusive.
LEVIN SHOULD BE PARTICULARLY ASHAMED in this pass the buck pas de deux. In this dance of the damned, he says he had to choose between two bad alternatives. Evil wins when good gives up and chooses the lesser rather than fighting for the better. The New York Times has an editorial out that says Ban All Torture, which is what you would think happened in with the McCain amendment. But what really happened is a case of you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours and don’t look at whether we just scratched the eyes out of some poor bastard or worse.
JUSTICE IS BLIND to what will now go on, but the architects of this minor atrocity will pat each other on the back. Call in the cameras. We have an announcement. Torture is banned, but it isn’t. Are the cameras ready? Done. You scratch my balls, I’ll scratch yours. Such announcements sound like the scratching of fingernails on a chalkboard. Chalk one up for tearing out fingernails. We do not torture, but tortured testimony is cool. Or something
Mr. Addington, who was a primary architect of the presidential order [establishing the military commissions], argued in the debates earlier this year that by explicitly prohibiting evidence obtained by torture, the administration would raise an unnecessary red flag. suggesting at least implicitly that prisoners in American custody were, in fact, being tortured, officials said.
SO THE ADMISSION COMES in the denial. We cannot deny what we do because that would admit what we do. So we slip into darkness, back into the black sea, and our reptilian past.
MORE VOICES IN THE SOUND AND THE FURY EMILY BAZELON The Get Out of Torture Free Card: How will McCain and Graham-Levin-Kyl play out in practice? One reading of the twin provisions is that a government interrogator who tortured a detainee could be prosecuted for violating McCain's ban, even as the testimony he elicited is used to keep that detainee or another one behind bars. Talk about sending mixed signals. In practice, though, it's hard to see how claims of torture will come to light in any of these proceedings.
SOME WILL SAY Bush and more particularly Cheney won on this. No one won. We all lost.
BODY AND SOUL Jeanne has an assignment: This is confusing, and it's meant to be. While the headlines blare that Bush finally agreed that torture and abuse will not be allowed, and that the Army Field Manual will determine how prisoners are treated, it looks like the final agreement will be that torture is forbidden, but if one of our guys happens to do it, he can argue that a "reasonable person" wouldn't have considered an act contrary to the Army Field Manual to actually be unlawful, and if a victim confesses under the stress of that accidentally unlawful treatment, we can still use the information in a tribunal. And if you happen to find yourself in that unhappy position, you will have no right to ask why you're being held.
THE HERETIK SUSPECTS some teachers may offer more assignments of reading Joseph Heller’s Catch 22.
WAPO GETS IT RIGHT well half right, when it says: In short, restoring the rule of law over an administration that deliberately chose lawlessness in its treatment of detainees may be an arduous process. And yet the McCain amendment is a vital, and hard-won, opening move.
THOSE WHO FORGET the bad faith this administration has engaged in may soon see worse. The Post seems to have jumped on the McCain train and neglected to connect how the Graham Levin Kyl amendment kills it.
PESSIMIST at Left Coaster sees the cartoon aspect: What was it Boris Badinov used to say? Ah, yes: "Never underestimate the power of a schnook!"
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH gets the bottom line on this: If passed into law, this would be the first time in American history that Congress has effectively permitted the use of evidence obtained through torture.