Friday, October 19, 2007

Mukasey Lays Down the Key Marker

Let me start out with the obvious. The Bush administration's nominee for Attorney General, Michael Mukasey should be rejected by the Senate because he refused to say that waterboarding is torture in his hearings yesterday.

The Senate's duty to reject Mukasey is a very simple matter. Federal statutes, military law, and international treaties which the United States has signed (and which we indeed initiated) all forbid the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique because it constitutes torture. Given that Mukasey is not prepared to enforce such laws, he is not fit to serve as attorney general.

For those who don't know what waterboarding is, here's a definition from DailyKos:

Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

"The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.

Why then is Mukasey insisting on not defining waterboarding as torture. It's because the Bush admininistration has been systematically employing waterboarding, extreme sensory deprivation, mock executions, and other torture techniques in its interrogations. They've also been sending accused terrorists to countries where they would be tortured.

All of these practices are felonies under American law and violations of international law. If Mukasey admitted that waterboarding was torture, he would be admitting that a wide range of American practices are torture and he would be putting everyone associated with those practices from the interrogators on the spot to President George Bush in legal jeopardy.

The problem is that the Bush administration deserves to be in legal jeopardy.

What the Democrats need to do is step up to the political plate and refuse to endorse anyway for Attorney General who does not acknowledge the illegal character of Bush administration interrogation practices.

And the Democrats should do so even if that means not having an Attorney General confirmed through the end of the Bush administration.


Todd Mayo said...

How did it ever come to this? An Attorney General nominee who refuses to condemn torture.

The international credibility of the United States, and the moral weight of our words, is damaged by every new discovery of detainee mistreatment at the hands of American forces or others employed by the Administration.

With every new revelation of secret detention facilities operating beyond public scrutiny, we take another step toward becoming that which the Administration claims they are trying to defeat.

Add to that, illegal domestic spying and wiretaps approved by the White House and carried out by the NSA and one need not wonder why citizens at home and abroad have serious questions about our nation's commitment to its own ideals. People,(myself included) now openly and often wonder how determined we really are to create an open world ruled by clear and established laws since our leaders are so quick to abandon them at home.

We are at a crossroads in our nation's history and I fear that we will not by judged kindly by future Americans for what this President has done in the name of our nation. Sadly, the new conclusion drawn by the world is that when the going gets tough, America's leaders are willing abandon our values in favor of thuggish tactics they hope might bring safety for a little while. Let me emphasize that: because it is a false sense of security.

After all the secret detentions, torture, warrantless surveillance, and phony stories about weapons of mass destruction, are we any safer from the threat of terrorism now than before? We are not. We are, in fact in greator jeopary.

For years, this Administration has circumvented our Constitution in the name of security. Its officials have dismissed the most important of our legal documents such as the Geneva Convention calling it "quaint."

This Administration has kept detainees in prison for years not charging them with any crime, not permitting them to have legal counsel. This Administration is willing to deprive people of even the most basic due process rights our country has always afforded those held by the government. They are willing to convict people of crimes without giving them any opportunity to review the evidence the government is using against them. They are willing to try and convict people based on unreliable evidence acquired through cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment like waterboarding that most of the rest of the world recognizes as torture.

They are willing to allow government officials to degrade and torment other human beings in ways that the civilized nations agreed to outlaw years ago. When they controlled the House and the Senate along with The White House, they were even willing to make any new legislation they passed retroactive, so that past abuses may be forgotten instead of being addressed.

From Abu Ghraib, to the creation of secret CIA facilities beyond the oversight of Congress and the world community, to the cynical misuse of the sincere efforts of our fighting men and women, I have no problem stating that this is not the work of my America.

My America won two world wars, faced down fascism, and brought peace and stability to the Balkans without using torture. They did it without abandoning the civil and personal liberties which made us different and made our way of life worth fighting for.

My America does not change the values of our society at the same time its leaders claim we are fighting to preserve them at home and promote them abroad.

No matter what the circumstances, we as a country, a people, as individuals must stand up against torture or mistreatment of prisoners, by any American, or any agent of the President of the United States.

But because of this President, his former Attorney General, his new nominee, and the rest of the rose-gallery of political assasins, The Unites States is facing the worst ethical crisis in our nation's history. There are now a record number of criminal probes and investigations underway involving high-ranking Republicans in both the legislative and executive branches, and there may be even more on the horizon. Yet the President has never addressed the scope and high cost of the rampant corruption consuming both his party and his Administration.

The cronyism and corruption which has taken hold this past six years has directly impacted the lives of every single American. From foreign policy to domestic policy, from the War in Iraq to the culture of corruption, this is a failed Presidency and the new Attorney General nominee is a perfect example of low this President has made our expectations.

But I have faith in the new Democratic House and Senate. They may not yet possess the will or the power to do what is right but they will. Once they have gotten used to being the majority, once they've gained their footing, they will come through. When Hillary, or Barack, or John becomes President, when their are more Democrats in the Senate and perhaps the House as well, then once more we will see the old New Deal/Great Society courage to right what is wrong reborn.

Things are dismal now but better days are ahead. We can clean all this up in time.

The very nature of our democracy depends on it.

"CUTNPASTE" aka Todd M said...

This is a cut and paste entry so I used that hilarious nick-name the PW boys gave me. This is a very succint statement by Governor Bill Richardson(D, New Mexico)on torture. Here goes:

In response to U.S. Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey's refusal to say whether waterboarding is torture, the Governor this morning issued the following statement:

"Waterboarding is torture, and anyone who is unwilling to identify it as such is not qualified to be the chief legal officer of the United States of America. If I were in the U.S. Senate, I would vote against Mukasey unless he denounces such specific forms of torture.

... "If another nation engaged in waterboarding against American citizens, we would denounce that country and call the practice barbaric, and rightly so.

"We must stand against torture without equivocation, without compromise, and without exception. Torture is a violation of everything we stand for as Americans and as human beings."

I concur.