Friday, September 15, 2006

Flawed Logic

Bush Fights GOP Revolt Over Terror Bill

President Bush fought back Friday against a Republican revolt in the Senate over tough anti-terror legislation and rejected warnings that the United States had lost the high moral ground to adversaries. "It's flawed logic," he snapped.

Bush urged lawmakers to quickly approve legislation authorizing military tribunals and harsh interrogations of terror suspects in order to shield U.S. personnel from being prosecuted for war crimes under the Geneva Conventions, which set international standards for the treatment of prisoners of war. [...]

Seven weeks before the November elections, the dispute left Republicans fighting among themselves — rather than with Democrats — about national security issues that have been a winning theme for the GOP in past elections. [...]

"If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic," Bush said. "It's just — I simply can't accept that." [...]

Bush said the Geneva Convention's ban was "very vague" and required clarification. "What does that mean, 'outrages upon human dignity?' That's a statement that is wide open to interpretation."

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The United States is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. Geneva Convention III, adopted Aug. 12, 1949, prohibits mistreatment of prisoners of war, and Geneva Convention IV, also adopted Aug. 12, 1949, protects civilian populations in times of war.

In 1994, the U.S. also adopted the U.N.
Convention against Torture, which defines torture as "any act by which severe pain, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted" to gain information, extract a confession, or as punishment. In addition, it requires state signatories to prevent acts of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture."
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U.S. Army Bans Torture Of Prisoners

New Manual Prohibits Forced Nakedness, Starvation And 'Water Boarding'
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Tortured logic...

'THE UNITED STATES DOES NOT TORTURE," President Bush said last week. It can, however, make use of what he euphemistically called "an alternative set of procedures" for eliciting information from prisoners suspected of being terrorists.

The difference between torture and these "alternative procedures" seems to be who's conducting the interrogation and where it takes place. If it's the CIA and it's overseas, they're permissible alternative procedures. Anywhere else, they're not allowed. This kind of legalistic legerdemain doesn't just expose the weakness of the administration's argument, it does a real disservice to U.S. foreign policy and all those serving overseas.

The administration characteristically refused to provide details about its methods. But experts on interrogation suspect that these alternative procedures could include subjecting prisoners to extreme temperatures and "waterboarding," in which a prisoner is strapped to a board and put in fear of drowning if he doesn't confess.

Such techniques seem to qualify as "humiliating and degrading treatment" prohibited by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention
(Update: see comments for more info), which protects so-called enemy combatants, at least according to the Supreme Court. That's also the military's view. The new Army field manual, rooted in Article 3, prohibits extreme interrogation tactics such as waterboarding and conducting mock executions.

The administration, apparently untroubled by this disagreement, is now asking Congress to declare that detainees who claim violations of the Geneva Convention may not have their day in court. The administration also wants to amend the 1996 War Crimes Act, which makes violation of the Geneva Convention illegal under U.S. law.

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Brutal details...

The Shy Detainee

On Dec. 5, one day after Mr. Habibullah died, Mr. Dilawar arrived at Bagram. [...]

Mr. Dilawar was a frail man, standing only 5 feet 9 inches and weighing 122 pounds. But at Bagram, he was quickly labeled one of the "noncompliant" ones.

When one of the First Platoon M.P.'s, Specialist Corey E. Jones, was sent to Mr. Dilawar's cell to give him some water, he said the prisoner spit in his face and started kicking him. Specialist Jones responded, he said, with a couple of knee strikes to the leg of the shackled man.[...]

"He screamed out, 'Allah! Allah! Allah!' and my first reaction was that he was crying out to his god," Specialist Jones said to investigators. "Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny." [...]

It became a kind of running joke, and people kept showing up to give this detainee a common peroneal strike just to hear him scream out 'Allah,' " he said. "It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes." [...]

On Dec. 8, Mr. Dilawar was taken for his fourth interrogation. It quickly turned hostile. [...]

The Post-Mortem

The findings of Mr. Dilawar's autopsy were succinct. He had had some coronary artery disease, the medical examiner reported, but what caused his heart to fail was "blunt force injuries to the lower extremities." Similar injuries contributed to Mr. Habibullah's death.

One of the coroners later translated the assessment at a pre-trial hearing for Specialist Brand, saying the tissue in the young man's legs "had basically been pulpified."

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