[saymaListserv] Torture deal??

Steve Livingston nc_stereoman at charter.net
Thu Sep 28 11:56:37 JEST 2006

The deal is in. The House of Representatives approved a compromise 
torture bill yesterday by a vote of  253 to 168. There is good news in 
this bill, and bad news.

Bad news first: the bill allows for evidence obtained by torture to be 
used against its victims as long as it was obtained prior to jan 1, 
2006. It denies detainees the right to habeas corpus, allowing the 
practice of detaining persons without charges for an indefinite period 
of time, and offering no recourse for their mistreatment even if they 
are eventually released as innocent. Most importantly, it defines 
criminal treatment of detainees so loosely as to allow for practices 
such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and temperature extremes, as 
long as the detainee does not suffer "serious" pain or "non-transitory 
mental harm". Ironically, the judgment of what falls short of "serious" 
would be left up to the Administration under this legislation, even in 
the case where the treatment is clearly in violation of the Geneva 

Is there good news? Yes, there is. Regarding the "seriousness" of the 
pain inflicted, the Administration capitulated to the will of the 
wusses, in that they had requested a bill authorizing not merely 
"serious" pain, but "severe" pain. I can't help but think of medeival 
Bishops sitting around a table deciding on acceptable methods of 
questioning for the Inquisition. More importantly, the bill has yet to 
clear the Senate, where Democrats stand a better chance of introducing 
amendments that would more clearly define proscribed treatment.

Another tidbit of good news is that, despite the disappointment of 34 
Democrats caving to the pressures of jingoism, there were seven 
Republicans who voted against the measure. Among them were two worthy of 
note. First is the esteemed Congressman from Texas, Dr. Ron Paul, who 
has rightly earned the nickname "Dr. No" because he consistently votes 
his conscience and/or his constituency before the Party. He was the only 
Congressman who said he read the PATRIOT Act before voting on it in 2002 
- and he voted against it. Second is the honorable Walter Jones of North 
Carolina, who represents the coastal district including Camp LeJeune. 
His initial claim to fame was the resolution changing the White House 
cafeteria identification of French Fries to "Freedom Fries". He has 
since become one of the most vocal opponents of the Administration's war 
policies in Congress.

Most importantly, IMHO, is that the debate provided an opportunity for 
Congressional opponents to frame the issue as a moral one, one in which 
American ideals based on Judeo-Christian principles are being sacrificed 
for questionable gains. Supporters of the bill did not offer any 
rebuttal to opponents' staking of claim to the moral high ground. The 
legislation is immoral, inhumane, and un-American, and no one is arguing 
with that.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert declared that the abduction of our nation's 
morality was necessary because "the Global War on Terror is different 
from any war we have ever known". I agree with his assessment. It is the 
first war in which the United States of America has gone on record as 
fighting against a religion.


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