Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Monday, November 07, 2005

O What A Tangled Web . . . .

This is a classic moment over at CNN. The main story at the moment involves a tornado victim and a lake, because of the thousands of people who probably died in the last twenty-four hours, that's the flashiest one, and we all know flashy death exceeds matters of global import for headline value at the websites of record.

Meanwhile, in the sidebar, where the tornado death has relegated what passes for real news at CNN, we find these two headlines in the first and second position on the list:

Five U.S. soldiers charged with detainee abuse

Bush: 'We do not torture'

Now, how are we to make sense of this? Well, in connection with the first article, we learn that United States military prosecutors -- Commander-in-Chief George Bush's subordinates, that is to say -- are charing five soldiers with beating several Iraqi detainees. That article goes on to note: "The announcement came on a day when President Bush told reporters that the United States does not condone torture."

Meanwhile, at the top of the seconda article, the article addressing at greater length the remarks briefly paraphrased in the first article, we get this:

President Bush vigorously defended U.S. interrogation practices in the war on terror Monday and lobbied against a congressional drive to outlaw torture.

"There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again," Bush said. "So you bet we will aggressively pursue them but we will do so under the law."

He declared, "We do not torture."

Over White House opposition, the Senate has passed legislation banning torture. With Vice President Dick Cheney as the point man, the administration is seeking an exemption for the CIA. It was recently disclosed that the spy agency maintains a network of prisons in eastern Europe and Asia, where it holds terrorist suspects.

So we don't "torture," but we evidently do unecessarily beat detainees. And even though we don't torture, our own military does prosecute people for doing things that sound an awful lot like torture. Which would almost sound like an admission that we do, in fact, "torture." Maybe there's more to it . . . wait, there it is --

"Our country is at war and our government has the obligation to protect the American people," Bush said. "Any activity we conduct is within the law. We do not torture."

Well, hel, if "any activity we conduct is within the law," and torture is illegal under the Geneva Conventions, we have a perfect syllogism -- and activity we conduct must not be torture under the Geneva Conventions. Pretty tidy when you think about it.

Oh and a propos, the International Herald Tribune, extensively quoting Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell during his tenure as Secretary of State, reports that all roads with regard to prisoner abuse lead to Cheney's office.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, told National Public Radio he had traced a trail of memos and directives authorizing questionable detention practices up through Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office directly to Cheney's staff.

"The secretary of defense under cover of the vice president's office," Wilkerson said, "regardless of the president having put out this memo" - "they began to authorize procedures within the armed forces that led to what we've seen."

He said the directives contradicted a 2002 order by President George W. Bush for the U.S. military to abide by the Geneva conventions against torture.

(Hat tip Billmon care of Dr. B.) As Dr. B. observes, there's really not a single sentence in the IHT article that isn't jaw-dropping, even in light of the many familiar aspects of it. IHT might not be the most authoritative source, but consider their extensive reliance on Colonel Wilkerson, who's not exactly some nut-job isolated in a Montana shack with no plumbing or electricity.


Blogger Stewart said...

Good post.

The inference you are drawing from the fact that the CIC's subordinates are charging soldiers with beating detainees appears to be that "we" do in fact torture. It seems to me that the interpretation should be that when people torture they no longer represent "us" in doing that of which our government says it disapproves. What else could a government do when it discovers that its agents have acted illegally?

On the other hand, why on earth would the President oppose legislation that would prohibit that which we say we have no intention of doing and are not doing? Why would such a law be in any way offensive?

4:18 PM  
Blogger Moon said...

Thanks Stewart -- the funny part is you accurately critiqued what really was rather pithy in my post, and drew out the note I intended to end on but neglected in haste. The only thing that really bothered me in the above articles -- I mean, the allegations of abuse bother me, but they're hardly news these days -- was Bush's insistence that we don't torture but his staunch opposition to any legislative action binding him / us to that commitment.

That's preposterous. It's not that there could be no reason to hold both positions, but the media, and We the People, need to start demanding explanations when such patently inconsistent statements issue from the mouth of our President.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Can you clear somthing up for me? Exactly what is it that McCain's amendment makes illegal that isn't already illegal?

9:25 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker