Saturday, January 24, 2009

Oh For The Love of God

From War & Piece:

A day before Obama signed executive orders closing Guantánamo Bay and banning
torture, the White House's top lawyer privately indicated to Congress that the new president reserved the right to ignore his own (and any other president's) executive
orders. In a closed-door appearance before the Senate intelligence committee,
White House counsel Gregory Craig was asked whether the president was required by law to follow executive orders. According to people familiar with his remarks, who asked for anonymity when discussing a private meeting, Craig answered that the
administration did not believe he was. The implication: in a national-security
crisis, Obama could deviate from his own rules. A White House official said that
Craig's remarks were being "mischaracterized."

Of course, this is just one of the many reasons that Feinstein's idea of a law codifying the use of the Army Field Manual for interrogations throughout the entire intelligence community is a good one. At least in the limited way of being able to make laws that mean something more than the "get out of jail free" cards that seem so in style in the American presidency. Without question Obama's executive orders must be put into law. Do you trust this gamesmanship for even a second?

I find this disturbing as well:

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he would not "prejudge the
executive orders of the commission," but said the Army Field Manual would set
the rules for all interrogations now. "The commission has been tasked with
studying any number of different scenarios relating to detainees and
interrogation," Gibbs said. "And I think what's best is to let that happen and
see what happens when they come back."

Again, this is pretty simple. You either follow international law, or you do not. The Special Task Force must not become a private think-tank that decides upon our trespassing upon international law at their whim. How can an administration remain vigiliant against torture when they are leaving the door open to it? Leaving torture in the political realm is a mistake. If the Special Task Force comes back and says, "torture is wrong," a chorus of torture supporters will malign the Task Force. So appointing a panel of super important responsible people isn't going to solve anything, nor solidify the Obama administration's present anti-torture stance. One by one every person in the Task Force will be discredited - no doubt Hillary Clinton will be discredited in particular. It's easy. For God's sake, just say TORTURE IS WRONG. But I guess with Holder being punished by Republicans for doing so, and Blair unwilling to say waterboarding is torture, and Obama not willing to immediately investigate and prosecute Bush for torture, one's options in terms of principles are limited.

What are they thinking by just dragging this out? Feinstein should step in and get a law against torture passed immediately. Glorifying executive power is not the answer to stopping torture. And better to pass a law now, when the Dems have the majority, than to wait until Republicans or another oppositional party can catch up a bit.

Invictus has posted about how the AFM may still codify torture. That is where our argument should be right now - whether the AFM is strict enough. I personally will try to devote more attention to it. But instead of arguing about the AFM, we are currently in a position where, as a sop to Republicans, the door has been left open for torture under the assumption that torture might at some time serve the needs of our country. Where is this assumption being strongly supported? The intelligence community. Why are they supporting it if not to cover their asses for 8 years of criminal mistreatment of detainees?

President Obama's strokes of the pen this week were a great step toward righting our policy. But torture-related issues must be taken out of the realm of the executive branch, and placed squarely into the realm of law that we may all be judged by. Nobody should be able to torture, and whether we do or not should not be dependent upon changing interpretations of executive powers. Torture isn't an issue for the executive branch.

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