February 20, 2006

The New Yorker: THE MEMO

A fascinating and illuminating article in the New Yorker details the discussions within the Pentagon as the parameters of the administration's policy on interogration were developed and applied. Guess who is quoted below:
“To my mind, there's€™s no moral or practical distinction,â€� he told me. “If cruelty is no longer declared unlawful, but instead is applied as a matter of policy, it alters the fundamental relationship of man to government. It destroys the whole notion of individual rights. The Constitution recognizes that man has an inherent right, not bestowed by the state or laws, to personal dignity, including the right to be free of cruelty. It applies to all human beings, not just in America—even those designated as â€�unlawful enemy combatants.’ If you make this exception, the whole Constitution crumbles. It’s a transformative issue.â€�"

Some left-wing liberal critic, guess again. That is the former general counsel of the United States Navy, appointed by the current administration, talking about how destructive government sanctioned cruelty is to the fabric of our democracy.
I guess the element that strikes me hardest is that each time the administration advanced a legal basis for dtorture it was eventually set aside by the very people who first espoused it and who authorized its use. The arguments about absolute Presidential power and the ends justifying the means just don't hold up when exposed to the light of day. Both the Gonzales "Torture Memo" and the Yoo memo authorizing specific levels of torture have been disavowed by the government when they became public. Even though they served as the operating instructions for interogaters for quite some time.
Given the administrations assertion of absolute Presidential power in war time, how can we not be scared about our rights. The same assertions that drive the torture debate drive the wiretapping scandal. The courts have held that the president is not above the law, yet the president just doesn't seem to get it. What other secret determinations have been made by Bush/Cheney to protect us.
Critics of this blog want the ends to justify the means, saying we are better than the terrorist because we don't behead people, that our torture is less than Saddam's torture. Is that really the standard we want in America, anything is sanctioned to keep us safe (not free but safe). The New Yorker article lays out the administration's efforts to institutionalize torture as American policy and their success in doing so. It also offers a sliver of hope that there are still some willing to fight for the honor of this country and to protect our freedom.

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