Let’s take a look at this report of Alberto Gonzales’ Senate testimony, why don’t we.
(From an article by Frank Davies for Knight Ridder)
WASHINGTON -- Alberto Gonzales has asserted to the Senate committee weighing his nomination to be attorney general that there's a legal rationale for harsh treatment of foreign prisoners by U.S. forces.
In more than 200 pages of written responses to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who plan to vote Wednesday on his nomination, Gonzales told senators that laws and treaties prohibit torture by any U.S. agent without exception.
But he said the Convention Against Torture treaty, as ratified by the Senate, doesn't prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" tactics on non-U.S. citizens who are captured abroad, in Iraq or elsewhere.Huh? I don’t have a law degree, and I’m not an expert on international treaties, so can someone explain how “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” are different from “torture.” I always thought those were defining characteristics of torture. And while you’re at it, please reconcile the logic of “prohibit torture by any U.S. agent without exception” and Gonzales’ assertion that it’s okay to torture non-U.S. citizens captured abroad. Wouldn’t that be an exception? When did our official language change from English to legalese?And I can make a “legal rationale” for a hostile takeover of the Hershey factory when I’m PMSing, but it doesn’t make it ethically or morally right. The words “legal rationale” should always make us very afraid.
[Gonzales] refused to answer questions from senators about whether interrogation tactics witnessed by FBI agents were unlawful.
He also said the administration was conducting a comprehensive legal review of all practices and that the Justice Department, so far, had concluded that the tactics were lawful.And again with the twisty logic. If a review has concluded that the tactics were lawful, why won’t he answer questions about whether the tactics were lawful? Then again, perhaps he knows that all the legal rationales in the world won’t save him if he’s caught lying to Congress.
As he did at the hearing, Gonzales said President Bush had ordered that torture not be used by the U.S. military or the CIA. He used the definition of torture in U.S. statutes: an act "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering."
But he drew a distinction between U.S. anti-torture statutes and the international Convention Against Torture, which calls on nations to prevent acts of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" that may fall short of torture.Last time I checked, “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” generally causes “severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” I can’t really think of an instance in which cruel treatment would lead to giggles and grins. I don’t think the interrogators were expecting the Iraqi prisoners to feel fantastic after being electroshocked or bound naked for hours.
When the Senate ratified the treaty, it defined such treatment as violations of the Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendments. Because of that provision, Gonzales said, the Justice Department decided that the convention applies only to actions under U.S. jurisdiction, not "treatment with respect to aliens overseas."How is a U.S.-run military prison not under U.S. jurisdiction? And how can someone be an alien in their own country? And out of the gazillion trillion dollar budget proposed by Bush, can none of that money buy someone a dictionary?
He refused to be drawn into a discussion of tactics that might constitute torture. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., asked him about reports from FBI agents, recently released, that some detainees were bound hand and foot to lie in their own urine and feces for 18 to 24 hours.
"I found those e-mails to be shocking and deeply troubling," Gonzales responded. "I do not think it would be appropriate for me to address reports of interrogation practices discussed in the press and attempt to analyze whether such reported practices are lawful."Um, as Attorney General, wouldn’t it be his job to address such reports and analyze whether the practices are legal? Oh wait. My bad. His job is to cover Bush’s ass even if it means breaking the law, ignoring all morals, and lying to Congress.
Asked about a key 2002 Justice Department memo that narrowly defined torture as pain that led to organ failure or death, Gonzales said he couldn't recall if the CIA sought it or if he had asked the department to produce it.Guess someone studied his Iran-Contra history.
"The only thing I issued was, don't torture. That's the policy of the government," Bush told a Knight Ridder reporter. "And we don't torture. And if there is torture, we will bring people to account."Anyone else having flashbacks to Clinton’s “define ‘is’” moment? And yet the Republicans were all over Clinton ass for that one. But of course: Splitting hairs on the definition of “sex” vs. doing the same with “torture.” I can totally see how the first one is way worse.