Jonathan over at Irregular Times has been doing a fantastic job keeping on top of the Senate’s support of torture and dictatorship. Welcome to the New America. Pentagon Bans Torture, Torture to Continue
Conspicuously, the ban on torture does not apply to agents of the American government who work with the Pentagon. The CIA, for example, is exempt from the new ban.
Funny, isn’t it, how President Bush and Vice President Cheney have specifically requested Congress to exempt the CIA from any ban on torture. Why, it’s as if the CIA is already torturing people, isn’t it?
As luck would have it, it is already against the law for any member of the United States government to conduct or order others to conduct torture. There is an American law that makes it illegal for the President to violate the terms of the Geneva Conventions. The new torture ban passed by the Senate and under consideration by the House of Representatives is merely a reiteration. It’s a very useful reiteration of America’s values, but legally speaking, it is not necessary. Torture is already banned.
So, if President Bush knows that the CIA is torturing prisoners, and he’s trying to protect the CIA’s ability to do so, then President Bush is breaking the law. He’s not just breaking any little old law either. He’s breaking federal law, and committing war crimes. That plainly fits into the category of high crimes and misdemeanors.
You probably didn’t read about it in your newspaper, which spent more space on the season’s new television shows that what was going on up on Capitol Hill. You certainly didn’t see it on Fox News. You probably didn’t get even a whiff of it even on NPR, and it’s hard to find out on the blogosphere.
Yet, two days ago, an historic vote was held on the floor of the United States Senate – and the Senate’s Republicans chose to keep America’s eyes clenched shut.
Senator Carl Levin offered a simple amendment (S.Amdt. 2430) that all America should be able to rally around: To create a commission to investigate the policies and practices in Bush’s system of secret prisons. Was abuse taking place in these secret prisons? Was torture occurring? Senator Levin’s commission would have investigated these important questions.
Of course, George W. Bush says that no torture has taken place, but what evidence has he produced? None, just his word. We all know how much that’s worth. In the meantime, a mountain of evidence has accumulated, all suggesting that a worldwide system of torture prison has been established by the Bush Administration.
We deserve the truth. America needs a commission to uncover the whole truth on what happens in these prisons. Yet, Carl Levin’s amendment to create such a commission was voted down by the Senate Republicans. Not a single Republican voted in favor of the commission. No, not even Senator John McCain.
Yesterday, Lindsey Graham successfully introduced an amendment to add the following text to the Defense Authorization Act.
Consider now, what this legislation does:
1. It removes the power of the courts to hear a writ of habeas corpus from any non-citizen who is held prisoner by the Secretary of Defense. That means that no court will have the power to determine the identities of people being held prisoner by the Secretary of Defense, where they are being held prisoner, and why they are being held prisoner.
2. It removes the power of the courts to make any ruling on any aspect of any prisoner’s detention. This includes torture.
3. It makes the changes retroactive. That means that even if torture was done two years ago, the amendment takes away the power of the courts to do anything about it.
In effect, this legislation gives the Secretary of Defense the power to commit war crimes without fear of ever having anyone stop him. In effect, this legislation puts the Secretary of Defense beyond the law. By putting the Secretary of Defense beyond the law, it gives the President of the United States a means to act beyond the reach of the law as well.
Having a President to whom the rule of law does not apply is the definition of a dictatorship. 229 years ago, the 13 American colonies began a revolt against the British monarchy so that the people of America could live in liberty. One of the liberties we gained was freedom from arbitrary imprisonment.
With the passage of Senator Graham’s amendment to the Defense Authorization Act, the United States Senate has undone the American Revolution of 1776. Once the Defense Authorization Act passes Congress, we might as well be the subjects of Queen Elizabeth II.