Thursday, October 06, 2005

"Torture" is such an ugly word....

My torts professor used to tell us: "Change the facts, change the outcome." A simple truism for lawyers. The Bush Administration, however, seems to prefer "Change the facts, change the application of the law:"

Sen. Ted Stevens R-Alaska, said that requiring all U.S. troops to follow procedures in the Army manual is not practical in the current war environment. "The techniques vary upon the circumstances and the physical location of people involved," he said.
The Senate is debating a bill sponsored by McCain and Graham that would:

...ban the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in U.S. custody and require all U.S. troops to follow procedures in the Army Field Manual when they detain and interrogate suspects. Graham's amendment would define "enemy combatant" and put into law procedures for prosecuting detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Sen. Stevens is carrying the water for the Administration, which wants to veto this bill because "it would tie the president's hands in wartime." Now, the obvious question is: why is this law a problem, if every other law, treaty, or international rule and opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court has been ignored?

And the answer seems to be: the party's over.

Of course, they are blaming the abuses on "ambiguous instructions." Which means no one is responsible. Better an inchoate abstraction take the fall than anyone with actual responsibility. I'm sure "ambiguous instructions" is the root cause of the hunger strike among the prisoners at Gitmo, now in it's second month (and odd the BBC is still covering this. NPR apparently gave up after the first report, a month ago. The first month, it's news; the second month: eh?).

Still, it's interesting to watch the debate and think about how much "political capital" Bush has left, if he has to go to Ted Stevens for help.

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