Friday, December 16, 2005

Torture Bill

I don't like it. Not because I think we should torture people. Not because I think we should leave an "out" for the ticking "nuclear/bio/chem bomb in NYC", but because the bill is flawed from the get go.

1) This bill is all inclusive of all prisoners taken during military efforts. It assigns all prisoners the same protected status as "prisoners of war", a protected status that is not assumed by any treaty, not even the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Conventions do not assign these prisoners, also referred to as "sabatouers" and "terrorists", any protection because they operate outside of the laws of war, practiced by world militaries that govern their behavior, protect citizens from undue damage, pain or death by their acts, and prosecute those who violate those acts through a code of conduct and law, none of which a "terrorist" practices, all of which they violate because, by nature, they purposefully attack, cause death, pain or undue damage to civilians and do not prosecute any violations (again, why should they, they are terrorists whose sole purpose is to harm people) by "subordinates".

In which case, the Geneva Convention does not protect them. If men without uniforms commit acts of war against a civilian population, they are not protected by civilized law.

That simple.

McCain's law seeks to eliminate that clause and pretend that all men are equal and all acts are equal.

Which is the second part of the problem with the bill. He enshrines the words "humiliation, degradation and torture" as equal in the bill as if all acts are equally applicable to all prisoners, equally repellent and equally punishable. Further, because the language is so wide and the law will now be congressional law, it means that the government is not recognizing any set precedents or existing law to validate existing established limits. Which means that every time a prisoner has their razor withheld, their skittles taken away, is forced to sit through 8 hours of John Stewart or Janine Garafalo, or thinks that his time in solitary confinement was overly long, the case will be brought up in front of the judge for review, to drag out forever, while the prisoner is exempted from interrogation pending a decision about the legality of the actions since no precedents will exist to guide the JAG or civilian lawyers or judges.

IE, make it up as they go along while national security is endangered, particularly since cases heard before the court means all information is out in the open or at least whatever information the prisoner or their lawyer could let slip.

Third, I believe this is grandstanding with a major cop out at the end. In the constitution, Article III gives Congress the power to make laws about "captures on land and sea". Which, on the off hand, this is what this proposed bill is doing, fulfilling their obligations. However, the fact is, by making the bill so broad, they've effectively handed the definition of "torture, degredation and humiliation" over to the judicial system.

This is a bunch of folks who want to be seen as acting appropriately to secure civil liberties, making nice with the "world figures" they might have to deal with some day if they ever want to be the President or on the Senate Foreign Affairs committees and, all at the same time, selling our national security and our men and women in service, right down the river.

It might have seemed like a good idea to make this law, but the reality is, these folks should have stuck with simply revalidating the field manual that governs these activities and that they already approve. They could have simply made a resolution re-affirming its status as the book that governs treatment of prisoners. Further, they could have made statements on the record that also re-enforced the the UMCJ, without making a new law, that would remind officers that they are to govern the actions of their subordinates, that all people in the military are subject to the UMCJ and that they expect the military to act accordingly. Any new prohibitions on activities could have been codified in the UMCJ.

Last, if it is a matter of the CIA, it is the Senate oversight committee's job to review and set the parameters of operations which includes CIA employees being subject to existing civilian laws, sanctions and being terminated from the CIA.

In short, while I am no lawyer, this seems like making bad law for the sake of appearances and abdicating responsibility by congress to over see these matters, giving the power to civilian courts, and, instead of validating our adherence to conventions, actually undermining the purpose of these conventions.

I'm sorry, but, as much as I understand Sen. McCain's history, the actions of the military and CIA do not equate to any treatment that he received by the North Vietnamese nor are they in danger of going there when existing law and appropriate oversight protects against it. However, the bill implies that it has happened.

This is one mistake that I believe sinks any possibility of me supporting McCain as President in '08 unless his opponent is actually OBL or Michael Moore or John Kerry. Even Hillary, I believe, would not have made such an error.

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