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January 01, 2005

Comments

I think Gonzales should not be confirmed.

I think that if we, as a nation, actually want to renounce the use of torture, a good way to begin is by rejecting the appointment one of the architects of the torture policy as AG. It is already disgusting that Bybee is a federal judge, but let's put the brakes on now.

Democrats, and (dare I hope?) sensible Republicans ought to make a major issue of this at the hearings, and accept no confirmation conversion.

Gonzales is not fit.

Gonzalez sucks. I think he may even be worse than Ashcroft.

I hope they bring up not only the torture, but also the shoddy death penalty memos in Texas and his coverup of Bush's DUI, which IMHO (IANAL) ought to have gotten his a** disbarred.

Bernard has it right; Gonzales shouldn't be confirmed.

In the end, you support him--you support someone who tried to make torture SOP in US policy. Frankly, his memos on capital cases as Texas AG should have been enough to ensure his career didn't progress any further than doing title searches.

Re: "It could be that this is not just a cynical ploy but a real sign of change." (by Michael Greenberger).

I have learned anything in the last 3 decades, it is that with the Bush family, if you have to ask, it is always a cynical ploy. Betting the other way is a good way to go broke fast.

Happy New Year to all!

I agree -- he should not be confirmed. It's nice to know that we now have a better policy on torture, and that it is not the official administration position that the President has the power to set aside federal laws and international treaties in times of war, but, like everyone else, I wish we had taken this position at the outset.

A while back, Matt Yglesias made what I think is a very good point: that one of the heartening aspects of all this is that so many people in the military, the State department, and even the CIA protested against this within the administration. The disheartening thing, of course, is that their protests had so little effect.

Erm, the problem here is that apparantly there are some cases where even under the old definition it was torture. Changing the definition of torture doesn't mean they will actually change the practices which are now defined as torture.

It kind of kills me that we're gotten to the point of cheering the MalAdministration for agreeing, in theory, to abide by the legal standards of Western civilization.

Cynical ploy or real sign of change? Umm... did Bush withdraw Gonzales' nomination as AG? No? Then I'll have to go for 'cynical ploy.'

It's a good thing, this new memo, but I don't know how much it will change on the ground.

Gonzalez should be filibustered until the administration cooperates fully in releasing the relevant documents on its policy towards torture, confirmed afterwards. We have to pick our battles, his replacement will be just as bad. Let's ask for something we can get, or that it will do real harm to the administration to deny us. Let's define the debate.

How to get this idea to Harry Reid, I don't know.

This is yet another must-read story by Dana Priest about rendition. For all that I've done on this story, I think I have discovered at most one thing that Priest or a Canadian or Swedish reporter hasn't known first, and I still haven't figured out what to do with it.

I have a general new year's resolution to do more about politics and talk less about it, which would entail posting very little here in comments until I finish my thesis on the Arar case. As you would imagine, I have a pretty lousy track record with new year's resolutions, so we'll see.

Gonzalez should be filibustered until the administration cooperates fully in releasing the relevant documents on its policy towards torture, confirmed afterwards.

Absolutely, we should have a nationwide conversation on this topic. The country should have a say and play a role in what we should do (and not do) with terrorists. Raw politics, front and center, should drive the agenda on this subject.

Gonzalez should be filibustered until the administration cooperates fully in releasing the relevant documents on its policy towards torture, confirmed afterwards. We have to pick our battles, his replacement will be just as bad. Let's ask for something we can get, or that it will do real harm to the administration to deny us. Let's define the debate.

Katherine,

Sure, let's put pressure on to release more information, but let's not be afraid to use it. Suppose documents show that Gonzales was even more deeply involved in torture policies than we now know. Do we just ignore that and not try to block the confirmation? That seems like a premature decision.

Yes, on some fronts his replacement is likely to be just as bad. but not necessarily on this. Is it too much to think there may be conservative Republican lawyers who could serve as AG and who oppose torture?

If we're going to choose battles, this is an important one. Democrats can't block Gonzales by themselves, but they ought to vote against him, and force every Republican who chooses to vote for confirmation to face the torture issue by raising it repeatedly.

Democrats can't block Gonzales by themselves

Sure they can, as it will take 60 votes to get him through. A sound public debate on this issue (what does and does not constitute torture) is certainly warranted and getting politicians on the record, well priceless.

A filibuster on this one can, and should, consist of Democratic Senators reading aloud Gonzales' memos on torture, followed by descriptions of what was done to prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, and Afghanistan; then his briefs on capital punishment, followed by what legal and Constitutional scholars had to say about them; followed by testimony from the Nuremberg Trials.

These memos, briefs, dicta, and commentary should be read, over and over again.

For variety, Democratic Senators can also read aloud transcripts and commentary from the RW commentariate, esp. the parts about how torture is just like frat party hazing, Spring Break fun 'n games, and/or just US troops blowing off a little steam; and maybe some of that really nifty commentary about how all those Ay-Rab Terrists deserved it anyway.


The Nuremberg Trials would be an excellent conversation about "due process".

While your at it, the Senate can discuss the law that they passed on the subject, the IRC parameters for torture, et al.

where does the buck stop Timmy?

So Edward, you are familar with the law passed by the United States on the subject. Eddie, I agree with Katherine, the issue should be discussed at length and everyone should be on the record.

Simply put, the buck doesn't stop with the IRC and it does it stop with the executive, who is tasked with protecting the general public and enforcing the laws and treaties of the Republic.

Quotes from BBC News:
"A furious memo from the then Prime Minister Edward Heath about a report on alleged torture by the army and police during internment in Northern Ireland has come to light in files released by the National Archives."

"In the aftermath of the furore over internment, the government's "Intelligence Co-ordinator" was asked to examine interrogation techniques.
The files show that he recommended that there should be limits on the use of certain methods - no more than two hours for hooding or wall-standing and sparing use of "white sound".
But the following year, after a widespread public outcry, Mr Heath backed down and announced in Parliament that sensory deprivation would in future be banned."

Simply put, the buck doesn't stop with the IRC and it does it stop with the executive, who is tasked with protecting the general public and enforcing the laws and treaties of the Republic.

So you're saying that Bush should be held responsible for Abu Ghreib? Nifty.

dutch, the last time I looked, we in the US write our own laws, kind of like we don't require adults (those 14 years and older) to carry photo IDs with them at all times.

Anarch, as for Abu Ghreib, I would start with the general running the prison and moveon from there.

Anarch, as for Abu Ghreib, I would start with the general running the prison and moveon from there.

Move in which direction?

Move in which direction?

Well that all depends on what the General has to say.

Bernard is right. I am assuming that additional documents do not show Gonzalez' hands to be any dirtier than I now think they are. But they may well, and in that case the situation changes.

I think he's more a yes-man than a malevolent force, but a yes-man is the exact last thing that Bush needs, as the President seems to sincerely want to do good but also seems pathetically ready to believe any argument that what he is doing is justified--that the readily foreseeable bad consequences of his actions are not his fault as long as he doesn't WANT them to happen.

I always wondered, during the 2000 campaign, how an apparently devout, sincere Christian could preside over something like the Texas death penalty system without a single pardon, grant of clemency, attempt at reform... Naturally the Democrats never raised the question; mustn't be soft on crime. The only person I ever saw ask Bush about it was David Letterman.

But then again, if he's just a yes-man, and no more than that--it's not like they won't find another yes-man.

As Casey said, there's no shortage of source material for a filibuster. More comes out every week as the FOIA requests and allegations trickle out. And for God's sake, Timmy agrees it's justified, Sebastian agrees with it, I've yet to encounter a conservative who doesn't. Not that every conservative would agree, not that the neat little party machine they're developing in Washington wouldn't trot onto Fox News to say it was racism or who knows what else but...if a lot of conservatives are okay with the idea, how do you think the news and editorial staff of the Washington Post and New York Times might feel?

this post on the subject from Legal Fiction is excellent, as is really everything on that site. It's my new favorite, except this one of course. And some of y'all are pushing it with the flame wars.*

Anyway, assuming I keep my new year's resolution, may everyone here have a better 2005 than 2004. What a truly lousy year, on almost** every front. I don't even know what to begin to say about the tsunami, except to be glad that our press is giving it sustained attention & that our aid has increased dramatically. Seems like the only thing to write of any use is my credit card number in the doctors without borders website.

*yes, I am a hypocrite, but at least my furious arguments that went nowhere have been mainly about geeky things like Constitutional law, which I gotta think lessens the impact as most people don't read them.
**except baseball and to a lesser extent football.

dutch, the last time I looked, we in the US write our own laws,

I was referring to the fact that 30 years agon in the UK the PM didn't think they were doing wrong thinks, but the top-operationals felt that the "physical abusement" didn't work and the public outcry forced them to stop altogether. Since the first two steps seems to be comparable I would so love history to repeat itself in the third step too.

kind of like we don't require adults (those 14 years and older) to carry photo IDs with them at all times.

Completely different and unrelated subject, but I don't mind telling you that I opposed this new law.

I think he's more a yes-man than a malevolent force

Actually, he is a lawyer who wrote a brief for his client about the current parameters of the US law as it pertained to the executive in its rights under the US Constitution. Lawyers do that all the time for their clients, really good lawyers do it a lot.

Now as Congress had written and passed a law which was signed by the Executive on the issue, it isn't a bad place to begin the conversation, Katherine.

Filibusters are a tool of the minority in the Senate, which can be used effectively by the minority to stop something dead in its tracks or force a conversation.

Senators are such a slippery bunch, not nearly as bad as Congressmen, I'm more than happy to force them to take a stand. In fact we can start with seeing how they voted on the original legislation, circa mid 90s, if memory serves me, combined with public comments, the senior Senator from New York immediately comes to mind.

DOJ essentially now takes it all back

Eddie, no it doesn't.

Eddie, no it doesn't.

{insert snark about ambiguity here}

The most objectionable parts, Timmy. The parts we've been horrified by, yes they have. The ideas that torture 1) must lead to levels of physical pain measurable only as organ failure or death, 2) must be the intent of the interrogator, and 3) is something the president can push the envelope on legally. They've taken those parts back.

I believe Bush commuted at least one death sentence to life in prison. The convict had dozens of murders pinned on him by overzealous Texas Rangers. They basically doped up a born liar/psychopath with Thorazine and asked him to confess to murder after murder. The guy was no saint (he had murdered 2 people for sure I believe) but he didn't commit the crimes for which he was going to be put to death.

heet is referring to henry lee lucas, who infamously confessed to commiting over 3000 murders and then subsequently recanted.

Thanks for the link, mattbastard... That story is stranger than fiction.

Katherine wondered in 2000 how an apparently devout, sincere Christian could preside over something like the Texas death penalty system without a single pardon, grant of clemency, attempt at reform...

In 2005 I think we have collected enough information to conclude that the key is the word "apparently."

So Edward, you are happy with the new memo then. Such as,
-Terrorists aren't POWS and aren't subject to the Geneva Convention;
-Interrogation methods -- which are not allowed in interrogation of suspects in domestic criminal proceedings -- are perfectly permissible in dealing with terrorists; and
-Prohibition of severe mental pain or suffering includes only those practices that impose mental damage that extends for a prolonged period.

Well that all depends on what the General has to say.

Then can I suggest that you not use the phrase "the buck stops with the executive" (or any variation thereof) until you're prepared to stand by it?

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