A Sell-Out Masquerades as Compromise

I want desperately to move away from this issue of the President and his persistent lie that ‘we do not torture,’ but it will not be backed away from.

I want desperately to move away from this issue of the President and his persistent lie that ‘we do not torture,’ but it will not be backed away from.

Exacerbated by weak-kneed reporting and a lack of follow-up, the various media venues have accepted the Rumsfeld template—don’t answer the question asked, rephrase it as a question that’s answerable.

The media keep referring to ‘compromise’ and ‘all parties agreeing’ when
there has been none of that and the laws of the world as well as
America have been broken. Flagrantly broken. Undeniably broken.
Ransacked and illegally dialed-back in time to retroactively prevent
administration prison-terms on a scale not seen since the Reagan White

There happen to be no CIA administered terrorist interrogations at
the present time, because terror suspects have been hastily retrieved
from foreign ‘extraordinary renditions’ to Guantanamo and American
military jurisdiction.

So, why the sweaty necessity to rewrite the 1996 War Crimes Act?

Because no one can be absolutely sure
of what may happen to control of Congress after the November 7th
mid-term elections. Bush thinks and Karl Rove thinks (and I think as
well) that control will stay in the hands of Republicans.

Not because the nation loves what has been done by this administration, but because my particular
Republican Senator or Representative is a pretty decent guy and, what
the hell, gas prices are coming down and Bush says the other guys will
raise my taxes.

This whole power-play, this evisceration of the McCain-Graham-Warner dissidence, is an insurance policy in case the White House loses control of one or (shudder) both houses of Congress.

The slash-and-burn policies of Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney are
possible only when there is ironclad control over all levers of
government and only while Democratic objection can be successfully
denigrated as soft on terrorism.

In two consecutive elections, Republican demagoguery has sufficiently fired up the fears of an opposition coddling terrorists
in America. It’s been, in both cases, enough to carry the day. But if
Bush-Rove somehow fail to carry a third electoral subterfuge, their
whole crew of miscreants are likely to come up on charges relating to
the War Crimes Act.

That particular piece of legislation, by the way, is not an
international document or a foreign-originating piece of lawmaking.
It’s a fully debated and unanimously passed (both House and Senate)
document signed into law by President Clinton,

. . . criminalizing breaches of the Geneva
Conventions in order that the United States could prosecute war
criminals (specifically North Vietnamese soldiers that tortured U.S.
soldiers during the Vietnam War). The Department of Defense supported
the bill, recommending that it be expanded to include a longer list of
war crimes. Because the United States generally followed the
Conventions, the military recommended making breaches by U.S. soldiers
war crimes as well "because doing so set a high standard for others to

Good enough. John McCain might have benefited from such a law, had
it been in effect when he was imprisoned. McCain might reflect that the
five years he spent in Vietnamese prisons just about equals the
longest-serving (uncharged) detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

But here’s the clinker. Here’s the reason McCain, Graham and Warner
lie gutted and flapping like fish on the deck after all their
blustering and principled rhetoric—

The law defines a war crime to include a "grave
breach of the Geneva Conventions", specifically noting that "grave
breach" should have the meaning defined in any convention (related to
the laws of war) to which the U.S. is a party.

The law applies if either the victim or the perpetrator is a
national of the United States or a member of the U.S. armed forces. The
penalty may be (up to) life imprisonment or death. The death penalty is
only invoked if the conduct resulted in the death of one or more

There are no protections from the War Crimes Act that accrue to
either the president or any senior members of his administration. Even
the bringing of such charges is enough to cool Dick Cheney’s famous
‘stomach for it.’ This perfidy was, by the way, strongarmed in the
Vice-President’s congressional office. The possibility of a president
and his senior cabinet being indicted under a War Crimes charge is
enough to put a tremor in the voice that claims ‘we do not torture.’

With even a sliver of a chance at a loss in November, the 60% who
feel America has been led down a very weedy garden-path, may say ‘prove it.’


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