Speaking of “evolving standards of decency”, we’re not always moving in the correct direction:
The House approved legislation yesterday that would bar the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, drawing an immediate veto threat from the White House and setting up another political showdown over what constitutes torture.
The measure, approved by a largely party-line vote of 222 to 199, would require U.S. intelligence agencies to follow Army rules adopted last year that explicitly forbid waterboarding. It also would require interrogators to adhere to a strict interpretation of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war. The rules, required by Congress for all Defense Department personnel, also ban sexual humiliation, “mock” executions and the use of attack dogs, and prohibit the withholding of food and medical care.
The White House vowed to veto the measure. Limiting the CIA to interrogation techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual “would prevent the United States from conducting lawful interrogations of senior al Qaeda terrorists to obtain intelligence needed to protect Americans from attack,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.
The passage of this bill in the House is correct, although it’s years overdue. The Senate should do the same.
The Bush administration’s immediate rejection of adhering to our existing laws and treaty commitments is shameful. It wants only vague restrictions on itself, with the option to define the interpretation of those vague rules. That is contrary to everything our republic is supposed to represent. Few are still shocked by this, but that does not validate its approach.
Other provisions of the intelligence bill also drew criticism from the White House, including a measure that would require regular reports to Congress on the CIA’s detention and interrogation methods, and on any Justice Department legal justifications for those methods.
This provision, the OMB said, would require from the president “information that may be constitutionally protected from disclosure,” which, if made public, “could impair foreign relations [and] national security.”
If you haven’t done anything wrong, you don’t have anything to be afraid of. Right? Isn’t that what we’re told when the administration wants the option to spy at will? Of course the truth is more complicated, but the Bush administration needs to be accountable to the American people, not the other way around. This is not a dictatorship, despite its apparent aspirations.
John Cole is right when he states:
Bush is a petulant child surrounded by a coterie of scared men who seem to think the world is so dangerous they need not act in accordance to established law, and they really don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks. They want all the benefits of pretending to be the world’s moral authority, all the while behaving like despots. January 2009 can not come fast enough.
I’ll echo the last sentence, but only because Congress is guilty of dereliction carrying out its duties. There is no valid reason that President Bush should still be in office.