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Between the Lines

June 09, 2004

Legalizing torture – it's now the American way

Other duties have kept me from giving the scandalous administration justifications for torture the attention they deserve. So instead, read this Washington Post editorial, which succinctly sets out the problem and just as succinctly describes the blot on American traditions and values:

"There is no justification, legal or moral, for the judgments made by Mr. Bush's political appointees at the Justice and Defense departments. Theirs is the logic of criminal regimes, of dictatorships around the world that sanction torture on grounds of 'national security.' For decades the U.S. government has waged diplomatic campaigns against such outlaw governments -- from the military juntas in Argentina and Chile to the current autocracies in Islamic countries such as Algeria and Uzbekistan -- that claim torture is justified when used to combat terrorism. The news that serving U.S. officials have officially endorsed principles once advanced by Augusto Pinochet brings shame on American democracy … "

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, has posted one of the memos that Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday refused to discuss and/or lied about before a congressional committee yesterday. Phil Carter at Intel Dump avoids the "L" word, but makes the point:

"… these statements are directly contradicted by the plain language of the memoranda that have now been made public. The DoD memo, in particular, provides a cookbook approach for illegal conduct," Carter writes "It explains how military personnel can use torture techniques because the U.S. Defense Department and Justice Department has a more narrow definition of 'torture' than our enemies, our allies, or even our own State Department. The memo then explains how customary international law can be ignored by executive fiat — and in self-referential fashion, it cites to an opinion of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for that proposition. The list goes on and on... The fact of the matter is that the statements from the AG and the White House don't hold water when compared to these memos."

NPR's legal correspondent, Nina Totenberg, has a detailed report on Ashcroft's performance here. It's well worth a listen.

Posted by tbrown at 12:30 PM


Presidential nut outs

Now here's a disturbing little piece. Some White House staffers and outsiders who have contact with the West Wing are becoming increasingly concerned about President Bush's mental state. The story is from Capitol Hill Blue, which claims it's the oldest surviving news site on the Web (née 1994). It also has the reputation of being the Democratic version of Matt Drudge. And, finally, the piece is based exclusively on anonymous sources, so take it with a grain of salt.

Blue proprietor Doug Thompson writes:

"In meetings with top aides and administration officials, the President goes from quoting the Bible in one breath to obscene tantrums against the media, Democrats and others that he classifies as 'enemies of the state.' ”

“It reminds me of the Nixon days,” says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. “Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That’s the mood over there.”

A case in point: George Tenet, the CIA chief who abruptly resigned last week. Here's Blue again:

"Tenet wanted to quit last year but the President got his back up and wouldn't hear of it," says an aide. "That would have been the opportune time to make a change, not in the middle of an election campaign, but when the director challenged the President during the meeting Wednesday, the President cut him off by saying 'that's it George. I cannot abide disloyalty. I want your resignation and I want it now."

Later, an aide said, Bush said Tenet's firing was "God's will."

In fact, Bush and his A.G., John Ashcroft, invoke the almighty so frequently to justify their actions that they're becoming known as "the Blues Brothers" because "they're on a mission from God," according to Thompson's account.

Read it all here. We post, you decide.

Posted by tbrown at 12:18 PM


Our friends the Saudis

More than half of them approve of Osama bin Laden's rhetoric and sermons, according to a poll of more than 15,000 Saudis taken last year, but just released publicly this week. Interestingly, however, only 5 percent thought it would be a good idea for him to run their country.

Posted by tbrown at 12:11 PM




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