america on its head

george w. bush is campaigning to become the first torture president of the united states of america. if he's not actively campaigning, then he's sure fooled me. he is pushing for new legislation that would redefine common article 3 in the geneva conventions that prohibits the use of torture. he is asking for the following:

1) authorize the cia to hide detainees in overseas prisons where even the international committee of the red cross won't have access.

2) permission to interview those detainees through practices such as "waterboarding" (which is a form of torture where a person is held underwater to the point where they believe they are going to drown).

3) permission to try those detainees, even sentancing them to death, through evidence they cannot see and evidence that may have been taken from such interrogation methods.

former secretary of state, colin powell, on the 13th of september, issued a letter to senator john mccain that sharply criticizes bush's new legislation that proposes a two track approach to interrogation, one system that observes the geneva convention's ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and one that does not. in the simple letter, powell states that "the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism."

here is the letter:

Dear Senator McCain,

I just returned to town and learned about the debate taking place in Congress to redefine Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. I do not support such a step and believe it would be inconsistent with the McCain amendment on torture which I supported last year.

I have read the powerful and eloquent letter sent to you by one my [sic] distinguished predecessors as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Jack Vessey. I fully endorse in tone and tint his powerful argument. The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.

I am as familiar with The Armed Forces Officer as is Jack Vessey. It was written after all the horrors of World War II and General George C. Marshall, then Secretary of Defense, used it to tell the world and to remind our soldiers of our moral obligations with respect to those in our custody.



all this is very troubling for a nation that has seen the world turn on it, or at least the administration, over the past five years. the united states has resorted to force to spread their ideals and beliefs instead of relying on their culture and morality. the american people, long cowed by fear, has allowed this administration to do whatever it wanted. and now, here is proof, that not only is the administration trying to unilaterally reinterpret international law, but it is turning the country into a joke of its former self, becoming what they are fighting, and flying in the face of its own moral and political beliefs. what is the point of a constitution, of principles, if those that govern, those that are supposed to protect the people, are willing to compromise principles whenever it pleases?

if this passes, this may spell the doom for americans overseas, in combat or not. this means that if the united states can unilaterally reinterpret international law and make torture legal, then what is stopping another nation from doing the exact same thing? what protection is there for american men and women who get imprisoned overseas?

in the following two videos, keith olbermann discusses bush's new legislation, as well as what seems like bush's new slogan, "it's unacceptable to think." the first video is of bush basically saying that it is perfectly acceptable for a country to unilaterally reinvent international law to suit its purposes, so long as they "adopt the same standards we adopt." in the video, bush tries to brush aside the idea of what would happen to an american soldier caught in another country.

ultimately, bush claims they are just trying to "clarify law." well, by his logic, north korea can come out and say, "well, we thought it over, we gave it real intense thought and debate... and we've decided that torture is all good. we're clarifying that whole cruel and unusual part by saying anything is fair game." that would be clear enough i suppose. it seems that all they would have to do, is to say they are fighting terrorism. and terrorism, it seems these days, is in the eye of the beholder. some people call hezbollah a terrorist organization. some call israel a terrorist state. some call palestinians terrorists. some would call the united states a terrorist empire. the word itself seems to loose meaning depending on who you talk to, so how do you govern such a word?

in this second video, they discuss the legal ramifications of embracing torture. the goal may be to give interrogators more latitude of methods, but the resulting blowback may mean not only endangering american lives, but a self immolation of part of the american identity by its own government. when is enough, going to finally be enough?

(source 1) (source 2) (source 3) (source 4)