Tuesday, June 8, 2004

What are we fighting for?

From today's Washington Post (registration required, but it's free):

A U.S. law enacted in 1994 bars torture by U.S. military personnel anywhere in the world. But the Pentagon group's report, prepared under the supervision of General Counsel William J. Haynes II, said that "in order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign . . . [the prohibition against torture] must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority."

The Pentagon group's report, divulged yesterday by the Wall Street Journal and obtained by The Post, said further that the 1994 law barring torture "does not apply to the conduct of U.S. personnel" at Guantanamo Bay.

It also said the anti-torture law did apply to U.S. military interrogations that occurred outside U.S. "maritime and territorial jurisdiction," such as in Iraq or Afghanistan. But it said both Congress and the Justice Department would have difficulty enforcing the law if U.S. military personnel could be shown to be acting as a result of presidential orders.

The report then parsed at length the definition of torture under domestic and international law, with an eye toward guiding military personnel about legal defenses."

So, if the President says it's okay, we can toss U.S. law. And, if you're outside the country, all bets are off. "Gentlemen, we've just passed into international waters -- the no smoking light is off and the captain advises you your have the option today of choosing cat-o-nine tails or thumbscrews for your interrogating pleasure".

When we become as they, what the hell are we fighting for?

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