Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The torture memo

The full text of the "torture memo", where US government lawyers argue that the President is not bound by either Congress or the Constitution, is available here.

BTW, anybody else think Bush's response to this just doesn't stack up? When asked about it, he says things like "we act according to the law" - but the whole point of this memo is to weasel ways to say that torture is legal. Unfortunately, no one in the US media has actually had the balls to fire back with "so does that mean you torture people, or that you don't?"

(It's also amusing to see Bush - the man who pledged to "restore honour to the White House" - engaging in the same sort of hypertechnical parsing that he criticised Clinton for. But maybe it's just a matter of proportion. After all, Clinton was screwing an intern! He was having sex in the oval office! How can a little thing like torture even begin to compare to a crime like that...?)

Update: Looks like I was wrong: during a press conference at the G8, the BBC did have the balls to ask Bush the obvious question. Unfortunately, his answer was just more of the same:

QUESTION: Mr. President, I wanted to return to the question of torture. What we've learned from these memos this week is that the Department of Justice lawyers and the Pentagon lawyers have essentially worked out a way that U.S. officials can torture detainees without running afoul of the law.

So when you say that you want the U.S. to adhere to international and U.S. laws, that's not very comforting. This is a moral question: Is torture ever justified?

BUSH: Look, I'm going to say it one more time. Maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you.

We're a nation of law. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at these laws. And that might provide comfort for you. And those were the instructions from me to the government.

Well, it might provide comfort if Bush would actually say something so simple as "torture is wrong" or "lawyers can argue that anything is legal, but at some stage you have to draw a line", rather than engaging in all this dodging around the point. It's not as if he hasn't been given the opportunity...