Tuesday, January 25, 2005

He hit me, and it felt like a kiss

I've been working on this for a while, and I'm not finished, but here it is anyway.

Many people are having trouble with Alberto Gonzalez's ideas on torture. While certainly we want to be more vigilant after 9/11, we ought not throw the Constitution out with the bathwater. We know now from the incredibly flawed 9/11 Committee report that virtually every mechanism for predicting and preventing the hijacking failed; the existing laws, practices & rules were not applied. So now do we need loads of new laws, or just, you know, people in power who actually do their job.

Gonzalez seems driven in his zeal to help GWBush get anything he wants. And somebody wants some severe kick ass. Among the many problems is that it probably won't work:

Torture of enemy combatants as done by American soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan was probably not productive and probably not needed, even though there might be emergency, life-and-death situations where you would have to try it.

I was trained as an Army interrogator. I might try and write for you a short piece on field interrogation of combatants -- even though I was never in combat.

I do know a lot about interrogation, including that coercion, threats, and terror will -- as you might suspect -- often produce unreliable intelligence. People will say anything to get out of a dangerous situation, but they know "instinctively" that they don't owe the truth to anyone torturing them.

If you rely on coercion or torture -- or terror -- to induce information, you may well wind up bombing your own positions.

And torture of prisoners in custody will inevitably show the world that your side is evil.

Nice. As countless others have pointed out, that part of the world that previously thought the US might be a kind of Satan now has proof that the US is indeed The Great Satan. Right wingers would likely respond "so what? we don't care about any danged furriners!" but, what with the growing economies in the EU and China, and ours having a little bit of trouble lately, that's a tragically short sighted view.

Some really macho guys who I'm pretty sure have some experience with stuff like war and fighting have some interesting thoughts, too:

A dozen high-ranking retired military officers took the unusual step yesterday of signing a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing "deep concern" over the nomination of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general, marking a rare military foray into the debate over a civilian post.

The group includes retired Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The officers are one of several groups to separately urge the Senate to sharply question Gonzales during a confirmation hearing Thursday about his role in shaping legal policies on torture and interrogation methods.

"Today, it is clear that these operations have fostered greater animosity toward the United States, undermined our intelligence gathering efforts and added to the risks facing our troops serving around the world," the officers wrote, referring to the Bush administration's detention and interrogation policies.

In addition to Shalikashvili, other prominent signatories to the letter include retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, former chief of the Central Command; former Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill A. McPeak; and Lt. Gen. Claudia J. Kennedy, the Army's first female three-star general. Several, including Shalikashvili, supported the failed presidential candidacy of Democrat John F. Kerry.

Richard H. Kohn, a military historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who specializes in military-civilian affairs, said the letter is extremely rare, if not unprecedented.

I dunno, these guys might have something here. They seem fairly strong in their convictions. And, they have some familiarity with Armies and guns and stuff.

Here is some more military stuff we can look to to shed some light on torture and abuse, from the Air Force (note: much good info at this link): Here's another pertinent link, and here's the actual law:

928. ART. 128. ASSAULT
(a) Any person subject to this chapter who attempts or offers with unlawful force or violence to do bodily harm to another person, whether or not the attempt or offer is consummated, is guilty of assault and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
(b) Any person subject to this chapter who--
(1) commits an assault with a dangerous weapon or other means or force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm; or
(2) commits an assault and intentionally inflicts grievous bodily harm with or without a weapon;
is guilty of aggravated assault and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

Here's more:

And some of the usual suspects in the wimpy leftie human rights communities also weigh in on this too:

“America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our founding we have proclaimed every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value.” These were the words of President Bush as he took the oath of office for his second term. They fairly reflect the principle on which the United States was founded: all people, by virtue of their humanity, have inalienable rights under law.

Torture and calculated cruelty inflicted by the government cannot be reconciled with this principle. Such conduct strips those subject to it of their dignity, and deprives them of their humanity. It is for this reason such treatment has long been prohibited by the laws of the United States, and by treaties the United States urged the world to embrace.

Alberto Gonzales, the President’s nominee to be the United States’ chief law enforcer, is without question familiar with this first principle of human rights. An experienced lawyer, he has served successfully in private practice, as a judge and as counsel to the President. He has an inspiring personal history of struggle and opportunity that is, in many ways, uniquely American. But during the past four years, Mr. Gonzales has helped to steer America away from its commitment to human rights under law. For this reason, we must oppose his nomination.

So I'm starting to have a bad feeling about this guy. And this doesn't help:

Senate Democrats put off a vote on White House counsel Alberto Gonzales's nomination to be attorney general, complaining he had provided evasive answers to questions about torture and the mistreatment of prisoners. But Gonzales's most surprising answer may have come on a different subject: his role in helping President Bush escape jury duty in a drunken-driving case involving a dancer at an Austin strip club in 1996. The judge and other lawyers in the case last week disputed a written account of the matter provided by Gonzales to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It's a complete misrepresentation," said David Wahlberg, lawyer for the dancer, about Gonzales's account.

While Gonzales's account tracks with the official court transcript, it leaves out a key part of what happened that day, according to Travis County Judge David Crain. In separate interviews, Crain—along with Wahlberg and prosecutor John Lastovica—told NEWSWEEK that, before the case began, Gonzales asked to have an off-the-record conference in the judge's chambers. Gonzales then asked Crain to "consider" striking Bush from the jury, making the novel "conflict of interest" argument that the Texas governor might one day be asked to pardon the defendant (who worked at an Austin nightclub called Sugar's), the judge said. "He [Gonzales] raised the issue," Crain said. Crain said he found Gonzales's argument surprising, since it was "extremely unlikely" that a drunken-driving conviction would ever lead to a pardon petition to Bush. But "out of deference" to the governor, Crain said, the other lawyers went along. Wahlberg said he agreed to make the motion striking Bush because he didn't want the hard-line governor on his jury anyway. But there was little doubt among the participants as to what was going on. "In public, they were making a big show of how he was prepared to serve," said Crain. "In the back room, they were trying to get him off."

So, what do we have, a true legal scholar who can help the US navigate the troubled waters of the 21st century, and make sure American citizens are safe in their own country, or a Texas Mafia consigliere, whose allegiance to Don George is fixed and unassailable?

You be the judge. All I know is, I don't want him to be.