Monday, November 14, 2005

Clinton:Sex = Bush:Torture

My deadline is Thursday for a column that runs on Sunday; meanwhile, according to Eric Altermann, a letter to the editor in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that ran on Saturday--but not yet posted to their website--had much the same theme as my column ("The naive bleeding hearts who oppose Vice President Dick Cheney's efforts to secure an exemption to the ban on the use of torture when interrogating those who are a threat to our security need to wake up to reality. This is the post-9/11 world. If some evildoer needs to be squeezed a little to obtain information that will potentially save American lives, we need to do it. The torture of Lewis (Scooter) Libby should begin this minute and continue until he gives up every neocon-man, war profiteer, misguided zealot, shock-and-awe peddler and lying politician who participated in the conspiracy to manufacture this war in Iraq.") Darn early deadline.

Regarding last week's column, I didn't have nearly enough space to point out that the Colorado campaign to eliminate the TABOR ratchet brought together not just the Democrats in the legislature, but also the state's GOP governor, the chamber of commerce, and various usually-Republican-but-fed-up-with-Grover-Norquist business types. It was everybody else against the 'wingers, both the "drown it in the bathtub" anti-taxers and the religious fundamentalists, who crawled into this bed and seem determined to stay in it. But the great thing about writing about TABOR in Arizona is that none of the Republicans here are willing to speak up for Bill Owens, so my lack of room to give him credit hasn't been called out. Instead, they want to pretend that the only good Republican is a "drown it in the bathtub" Republican, so the good work by Owens goes unremarked here (while the same people who used to call TABOR "the gold standard" of tax-expenditure limitation legislation now cluck sorrowfully that the formerly "gold standard" ratchet was an ill-designed glitch that shouldn't let anyone doubt the underlying idea).

Newspaper column link here.

East Valley Tribune, Nov. 13, 2005

It’s going to take way too long to find out if Karl Rove and Lewis Libby broke the law if we have a regular trial, due process, and constitutional rights. So instead, let’s torture them.

I don’t mean real torture. As President Bush says, the United States government always acts “under the law. We do not torture.” But that statement depends on (ahem) what the meaning of “torture” is.

According to our president, some things may sound like torture or “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” banned by the U.N. Convention on Torture, to which the United States is a party, but they aren’t really “torture.” The Bush administration spent lots of energy drawing these fine distinctions; they think about torture and evading international law as passionately as Bill Clinton thought about sex.

Call it “not-torture.” Stuff like “water-boarding” -- dunking detainees in water repeatedly to near drowning. Secret prisons in former Soviet facilities in Eastern Europe. Tying naked detainees outdoors, where they die overnight from exposure. Beating a detainee’s legs, or smashing his feet with hammers. Locking a detainee’s arms over his head, which in turn is inside a plastic bag, until he suffocates. In the Bush administration’s view, all perfectly copasetic. That’s why they’re fighting so hard in Congress to keep “not-torture” legal.

The Bush administration contends that it isn’t torture if you are “without intent to cause permanent injury or loss to vital organs.” So you can break bones (which usually heal), or pry off fingernails (which usually grow back), or maybe even pull out teeth (some dictionary should confirm that teeth aren’t organs). If anybody dies, you really didn’t mean to kill them and therefore lacked the requisite intent.

Getting the hang of what’s permissible “not-torture” yet?

After all, we’re repeatedly told that you can trust this president. He nominated Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, and asked conservatives to trust him, and we know how well that turned out. So of course we trust him when he says these things aren’t torture, and aren’t cruel and degrading or inhuman. So there’s no reason we can’t use “not-torture” techniques on Rove and Libby, right?

But, some panty-waisted due process ACLU types may complain, you can’t do that to American citizens! Says who? After all, we’re at war, and the Bush administration has made clear that they believe there should be no oversight by Congress or by the courts in how the Commander in Chief decides to fight the War on Terror -- or exactly what he (and he alone) decides to consider part of the War on Terror.

The PATRIOT Act now allows dozens of Justice Department officials to issue secret, unreviewable “national security letters” against American citizens who are not alleged to be terrorists or spies; some 30,000 are now issued annually, without any oversight by anyone, either before or afterwards. Information about approximately 1 million tourists who visited Las Vegas in December, 2003 during an investigation of a possible terror attack remains in FBI data banks.

The Bush administration claims the right to hold a U.S. citizen who is a suspect in this amorphous and continuing War on Terror in military prisons -- on nothing more than President Bush’s determination. So how hard would it be for him to decide that Rove and Libby have something to do with the War on Terror, and that these special rules should apply to them? Once he decides they're "ticking time bombs," the administration’s lawyers already have the court filings ready to refuse to let either Congress or the courts interfere.

Maybe some still quaintly think we shouldn’t “not-torture” Rove and Libby because it would be (gasp!) wrong? Unfortunately, that train left the station long, long ago.

Of course, Bush won't treat Rove or Libby that way. Heck, he’ll probably follow in the family tradition and grant ‘em both presidential pardons, and people who railed at Clinton’s pardons will be suddenly struck dumb. But mainly Bush won’t treat people he knows personally according to the rules he (and Congress) apply to people they don’t know.

“Not-torture.” Makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?

No comments: