The Pro-Torture Pact

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This column was written by Ari Berman.
Democrats chose to outsource their policy on military tribunals to John McCain. And McCain did what he's done best the last year: capitulate to Bush.

"Senators Snatch Defeat From Jaws of Victory: U.S. to be First Nation to Authorize Violations of Geneva," Georgetown University law professor Marty Lederman writes of the so-called "compromise" between Senators McCain/Graham/Warner and President Bush.

Says Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office:
"The proposal would make the core protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions irrelevant and unenforceable. It deliberately provides a 'get out of jail free card' to the administration's top torture officials, and backdates that card nine years.

"Also under the proposal, the president would have the authority to declare what is — and what is not — a grave breach of the War Crimes Act, making the president his own judge and jury. This provision would give him unilateral authority to declare certain torture and abuse legal and sound. In a telling move, during a call with reporters today, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley would not even answer a question about whether waterboarding would be permitted under the agreement.

"The agreement would also violate time-honored American due process standards by permitting the use of evidence coerced through cruel and abusive treatment. We urge lawmakers to stand firm in their commitment to American values and reject this charade of a compromise."
Adds the Washington Post editorial page:
"In effect, the agreement means that U.S. violations of international human rights law can continue as long as Mr. Bush is president, with Congress's tacit assent."
In the end, McCain got loads of admiring press coverage. And Bush got almost everything he wanted.


Ari Berman, based in Washington, D.C., is a contributing writer for The Nation, a contributor to The Notion and a Puffin Foundation writing fellow at The Nation Institute.

By Ari Berman
Reprinted with permission from The Nation

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