Another Blow to the White House's Detainee Plan

If you want to understand why the Bush Administration is losing its battle with Congress over terror detainee rules, just read Doug Struck's article this morning in the Washington Post. The lead? "Canadian intelligence officials passed false warnings and bad information to American agents about a Muslim Canadian citizen, after which U.S. authorities secretly whisked him to Syria, where he was tortured, a judicial report found Monday."

The New York Times had this take on the story and the Globe and Mail, one of Canada's leading newspapers, offered this view. And if you really want to know how badly US and Canadian officials acted read the "Arar Commission" report here.

The story of Maher Arar is really a story about lost credibility. The governments of Canada and the US accused the man of doing things he did not do. And then used those accusations to do horrible things to him under the color of law. These governments abused trust and lost credibility. This is also the essence of the debate over the application of the Geneva Conventions to the treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Administration officials-- some of the very ones who loosened the legal reins in a way that brought us Abu Ghraib, some of the very ones who permitted the abuse heaped up Arar-- now are telling the Senate and the rest of us that they can be trusted to operate decently within a legal framework that bends to the purposes of the White House. Why in the world would anyone believe them?

The answer is: more and more people don't. And that's why the President's men and President's women are showing signs today of giving in to the political and legal realities of the situation and coming closer to the position staked out by Republican Senators Graham, Warner and McCain. The White House no doubt will contend today that the Arar Inquiry is all wet and, anyway, has nothing to do with our domestic debate over terrorism. The White House is wrong on both counts.

By Andrew Cohen |  September 19, 2006; 9:30 AM ET
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I am in sync with olumnist Eugene Robinson who has a regular column on this very op-ed page, when he asserts his disbelief that an American President can behave the way this President is behaving.

Bush's pithy, petulant conduct at Friday's press conference was more the attitude of a spoiled brat lashing out at his parents for denying him more cookies. Bush has grown accustomed to having Congress give in to his every demand, whim, or insistence.

He now finds himself in unfamiliar territory. And, make no mistake, this chap has the temperament of a vindictive child and will use his vast echo chamber out there on Fox News and talk radio and the blogs to go after these offending Seanators who just don't get who he is.

He is George W. Bush! George W. Bush! Don't they understand that? You don't go up against George W. Bush, President by Divine Providence, Man of Destiny, the man God himself wants to be President and who personally appointed him as his champion and warrior against the Axis of Evil.

Like Mr. Robinson, I find myself appalled not only at Bush but also that so many Americans have bought into this unAmerican malarkey he is peddling. I see Bush as a totally political animal and am not the least bit surprised that he would politicize this issue. I am however surprised to once again find that the American people are buying in to this absurdity.

I am completely nonplussed at the abject stupidity of so many Americans who can in the space of a few days and a few speeches by this strutting, arrogant peacock of a man, fall right back into line behind him and forget the absolute cesspool he has plunged this country into.

All I can say is that they deserve every bodybag returning from the Middle East with their dead sons and daughters, every dollar in additional taxes that their children and grandchildrren will have to fork over to pay down his debt, endure every insult and outrage coming from people in the world who used to trust and respect us, and put up with another round of crazy mixed up policies that pile up even more incompetencies, scandals and just plain bad government or no government at all.

Elections really do matter people and so do policies and issues. If you continue to buy into this madness, you only have yourselves to blame.

Posted by: Jaxas | September 19, 2006 11:29 AM

I, too, appreciated Eugene Robinson's column today. What an abhorrent bully this country is becoming. How can we have sunk so low as to be parsing the meaning of "torture"?

If it looks, sounds, and stinks like torture, then that's what it is. If there's any doubt about whether an interrogation technique might constitutue torture, then it does.

How did we go so horribly, irredeemably wrong?

Posted by: KFJ | September 19, 2006 12:08 PM

It would appear that, at last, we have no decency.

Posted by: CT | September 19, 2006 03:45 PM

When I read Eugene Robinson's column shortly after it was posted, I found myself saying, "Finally, someone has spoken."

For years now, I have felt like I was living in the twilight zone--existing in a world I did not recognize. Common sense told me that, every day, every newspaper in the country should have had a single headline, "IN YOUR NAME, THE U.S. TORTURES."

How could I, as a Christian, possibly support an administration on the basis of "moral values" when that administration makes a conscious decision to torture?

We should all insist that both branches of Congress call an up or down vote on the administration's requested legislation. Then, we will have a clear accounting of where each of our representatives stand when it comes to embracing torture.

Posted by: BES | September 19, 2006 05:33 PM

Although logic seems to have generelly gone out the window in the political realm, the President's reply to Colin Powell's comments regarding the proposed modification of the Geneva Convention accords is so outrageously illogical that it should be an eye-opener to even the most jaded, political observers.
Powell's statement opposing the Geneva accord changes because it could cause the world to doubt the moral basis of our war on terrorism was answered by the President by stating that this was somehow a comparison of the decency and compassion of the American people to the the tactics of the terrorists. The President further stated that it was unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the Americans and those extremists who kill innocent women and children.
Of course it's unacceptable, but Powell said nothing of the sort. The President totally twisted Powell's remarks to demagogue this issue because he has no logical response to Powell.
To have the President insult Colin Powell, once one of the most respected people in the world, in this manner, is an outrage. Powell put his credibility and international standing on the line in faithful service of this President and suffered for it.
To now have have the President degrade the opinion of this patriotic American and rhetorically lower Mr Powell's advice to the level of the terrorists simply to serve his own political purposes makes one wonder what kind of person do we have in the White House.

Posted by: JFG | September 19, 2006 06:20 PM

To JFG: It's clear what kind of person we have in the White House. The bigger question is- when will the rest of America see him for what he is. I grew up thinking the people in Germany under Hitler MUST have known what was going on. How could they not know. Now I understand that a bit better. They were lied to and fed the "fear" food, that there were people out there trying to do them in. I used to think Nixon was the most dangerous President we've ever had. Guess what? He's dropped to #2. I'm praying I never think Bush wasn't so bad after all.

I read the papers and listen to the news and I can't believe this is my country anymore. Where is everyone who use to care?

Posted by: MMD | September 19, 2006 09:43 PM

I am a conservative. I am a Republican (a Lincoln - TR one). I am ashamed of our President. I hope the Congress does not make me ashamed of my country. If George Bush wants clarity of our interpretation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention let him make it perfectly clear not by a list that can be evaded of acts that are forbidden but rather by listing what acts are permitted, with the clear statement that we will not object if the same things are done to our service members if they fall into enemy hands. Then make that a pert of the elistment contract of every person recruited into our armed forces.

Posted by: John Davison | September 19, 2006 11:15 PM

KFJ on September 19 asserts that "If it looks, sounds, and stinks like torture, then that's what it is. " What about so-called "super-max" prisons in the United States iself? In Jones 'El v. Berge (2001), for instance, the Western District Court of Wisconsin described "supermax" prisons like this:

"Inmates on Level One at the State of Wisconsin's Supermax Correctional Institution in Boscobel spend all but four hours per week confined to a cell. The "boxcar" style door on the cell is solid except for a shutter and a trap door that opens into the dead space of a vestibule through which a guard may transfer items to the inmate without interacting with him. The cells are illuminated 24 hours a day. Inmates receive no outdoor exercise. Their personal possessions are severely restricted: one religious text, one box of legal materials and 25 personal letters. They are permitted no clocks, radios, watches, cassette players or televisions. The temperature fluctuates wildly, reaching extremely high and low temperatures depending on the season."

Would anyone care to comment whether this "sounds like" torture?

Posted by: Scott Shershow | September 20, 2006 06:32 PM

What a load of twaddle. Torture offends you does it? What a pity, as there will be more and more of this activity in the years to come. Two of our soldiers were decapitated by the Salafists several months ago yet you kind-hearted souls soil yourselves worrying about the "image" of the US abroad. Mr. Conservative, if you believe that falling into the hands of the Salfists is not already a death sentence then you are an idiot. This is a war of extermination and torture is a most useful and wonderful weapon to open the minds of the Salafists and to let them see the light. Of course, this is not the holy war those precious muslims in Guantanamo dreamed of is it?

Posted by: Jose MATAMOROS | September 21, 2006 11:42 PM

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