Thursday, October 06, 2005

Reasserting decency

The US Senate has voted overwhemingly to outlaw the torture and abuse of detainees by US troops. Senator John McCain - who was himself tortured while a POW during the Vietnam War - put foward an amendment to a military appropriations bill that would limit interrogation techniques only to those listed in the appropriate US Army Field Manual, prohibit torture or cruel or degrading treatment, and require that all detainees be registered with the Red Cross. It's a reassertion of the decent side of America - not to mention a hefty dose of self-interest. McCain well understands both how the US's treatment of detainees affects the treatment its own troops will receive when they are captured, and how it is robbing America of allies in the fight against terrorism.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration is still threatening to veto the entire bill if the clause survives conference committee. I guess they have neither decency nor self-interest...


Even if it made it through without being vetoed I doubt very much it would mean anything in practice. Torture is already illegal under U.S. and international law. A war criminal is a war criminal is a war criminal.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/07/2005 11:15:00 AM

Wouldn't that be Bush's first ever veto?

Oh, the irony.

Posted by Icehawk : 10/07/2005 02:14:00 PM

Christiaan - that's partly why this is important. The US attorny General (Gonzalez?) was trying to define a bunch of things that I would call torture as not really torture, and therefore permissable.

In my view what McCain is doing is requiring the people at the top to explicity say what is permissable, rather than being able to blame the people at the bottom when they get caught. Had there been an explicit "if it's not in the field manual you're not allowed to do it" from above before the Iraq invasion, then some of the abuses of Abu Graib might not have happened, and when people were not reported to the Red Cross, everyone involved would have _known_ that was illegal, instead of not being entirely sure whether the CIA were allowed to do that or not.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/07/2005 02:21:00 PM

Why is Bush opposing the Bill? Let another straw to break this Tory's back. The rule of law is not optional.

Posted by Pitt : 10/07/2005 03:05:00 PM

Call me cynical, but I notice a connection between the timing of this and the increase in the numbers of Iraqi police to the point where they can take over from the Americans in doing interrogations. They have no "Geneva Convention issues" as one soldier put it to me. The administration will soon be able to swear that none of its troops have been abusing prisoners, without any disappointing drop in the amount of information acquired through torture.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 10/07/2005 10:59:00 PM

It is a good debate to have
Also I think in an CLEAR emergency (for example the classic "hidden atomic bomb") where they have to get information out of a terrorist people will tourture the terrorist anyway regardless of what theoretical punishments are proposed.

Posted by Genius : 10/09/2005 01:35:00 PM