Friday, July 15, 2005

Torture on a Whim

According to a report in today's Washington Post, it is the Pentagon's official policy—adopted over the protests of military lawyers—that the president is free to disregard legal prohibitions against torture. Why? Because he's the boss, apparently. Here's the key quote:
A law enacted in 1994 bars torture by U.S. military personnel anywhere in the world. But the Pentagon working group's 2003 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."
So, it's only torture if the other side does it. If we do it, that's just a justified exercize of presidential prerogative.

This and other revelations prove that the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and elsewhere were not the isolated actions of bullies. They were official US policy, and denials and claims to the contrary can now be seen for what they are: bald-faced lies.

How can we expect to act as a moral, positive force in the world when our own actions are constrained not by law, not by morality, not by the grand pronouncements of our noble mission, but by the president's whim alone? Each new revelation about the treatment of prisoners makes it that much harder to maintian principled support for the War on Terror.
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