In which my faith begins its validation

From the Times:

Saying that “our ideals give us the strength and moral high ground” to combat terrorism, President Obama signed executive orders Thursday effectively ending the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret interrogation program, directing the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp within a year and setting up a sweeping, high-level review of the best way to hold and question terrorist suspects in the future.
I don't think the importance of this decision can be overstated. America must not be the kind of place wherein a person can be incarcerated indefinitely without charge and held in secret. It must not be the kind of place wherein people can be tortured to extract information. If we are to restore our shattered international image, we must hold ourselves to the very highest standards of justice.

Which brings me to my next question. How on earth do certain members of the GOP sleep at night? I'm talking about you, Cornyn and Specter. Via Bloomberg:

Holder testified that waterboarding, a technique the CIA used to simulate drowning in questioning three suspected al- Qaeda operatives, is a form of torture. Texas Republican John Cornyn said Holder was ambiguous about whether he would seek to prosecute intelligence agents or those who sanctioned the interrogation methods.

“This is a really critical position with so many enormous questions hanging out there,” Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter told reporters after he sought the delay on behalf of his Republican colleagues. Holder’s testimony raises “big, big issues, which need to be explored in real depth,” he said.

In case this isn't 100% clear, let me restate this. Holder, Obama's nominee to be Attorney General, has stated that waterboarding is torture. (It is. It is also a crime, for which we ourselves prosecuted Japanese soldiers after World War II.) He has also refused to foreclose the possibility that people who engaged in said illegal torture might be prosecuted. Certain Senators are therefor, in an effort to protect those who may have engaged in torture, holding up his confirmation.

I have a hard time imagining the lengths the GOP would have to go to in order to regain my basic respect as a party, much less ever consider voting for them. This is an utter disgrace.


  1. Hi, loyal opposition reader here, again...

    A couple of points: the US like all Geneva Convention signatories retains the right to hold POWs indefinitely without charge. Being captured in wartime wearing the uniform of an enemy combatant earns you detention till the war ends. No charges and no trial necessary.

    Also, and this is problematic according to the GCs, the US has held POWs in secret. For example, the crew of the German sub U-505 was held in secret isolation and denied contact with the Red Cross. The Germans believed the sub sank and all aboard were presumed dead. Had the Germans suspected the sub was captured, they would likely have changed the naval Enigma keying and operations procedures along with the chart position code which would have been a severe blow to Enigma efforts at Bletchley Park and hence the entire Allied anti-sub effort. Thousands of seamen would have been in jeopardy along with millions of tons of shipping. This was a clear violation of the rules of war. Do you think the US made a mistake taking this course of action?

  2. Well, let me tackle the latter question first. I am willing to countenance a certain degree of fudging for a specific and discrete goal (in this case, keeping the Enigma efforts intact). However, I think it requires exceptional care, and must be done very, very judiciously. Further, there must at some point be an accounting to justify the behavior.

    On the former point, what declared war would we be counting? The War on Terror? Were those detained uniformed as combatants as such? How will an endpoint be discerned? And upon which entities was war declared? The Bush administration claimed that those detained were not, in fact, POWs, hence our neologism "enemy combatants." It would be beyond ironic for the GCs to be invoked as justifying their detention, when they were otherwise deemed unfit for GC protections.

  3. I agree completely with your first paragraph. I could not have said it better myself.

    On your second paragraph, to my point about indefinite detention, POWs protected by the GCs are legally held for an indefinite time without charge or trial. A fortiori, combatants who do not qualify as POWs may be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

    Now, what declared war? AFAIK, there is no declared war because there is no government to declare war against. The Taliban has been defeated. Saddam's government has been defeated. No state of war exists, legally, AIUI.

    Are those detained uniformed combatants? The enemy combatants do not AFAIK wear any distinctive uniform or insignia as the GCs require. We have no state supported uniformed military to fight against. What we have are quasi-state organizations that employ non-uniformed combatants. The GCs don't apply, legally, unless these quasi-state organizations take upon themselves to follow the requirements of the GCs. If this were the case, the US would be legally obligated to observe the GCs as well. But they haven't, so we aren't.

    In summary, these enemy combatants do not qualify as GC POWs, and it would be a mistake to legally classify them as POWs. The US is free to treat them as POWs if the US chooses to do so, but there is no legal obligation attached.

  4. Mr. Obama declared "The US will not torture." As someone noted, he's also said he supports the 2nd amendment, but the devil is in the details.

    In a possibly related note, Mr. Obama's pick for Director of National Intel declined to call waterboarding torture.


    Will this affect your respect for either the Bush or Obama administrations?

  5. I'm not sure what the connection between the 2nd amendment and torture is.

    And the latter fact above doesn't necessarily affect my respect for the Obama administration per se, though it's kind of mealy-mouthed. It makes me a little suspicious of Blair, however.

  6. The connection is that everyone and her sister have a different understanding of what the 2nd amendment says, so having the President say "I'm pro-2nd amendment" tells us little about what he may do. Similarly, saying "The US will not torture" doesn't tell us much, especially coupled with the fact that the DNI-in-waiting doesn't agree that waterboarding is torture. The President said we'll go by the Military Handbook, but at the same time he ordered a task force to revise the Military Handbook, and no one knows what kind of interrogation policies will be put in place.

    Do you think the Dems who can't bring themselves to label waterboarding torture need to worry about sleeping at night, or is that just for GOPers? Bush's administration waterboards 3 guys in 8 years and he's called evil; less than a week in office and the President has already gone wobbly on torture by nominating Adm. Blair. Just hide and watch, I'll bet Mr. Obama eclipses Mr. Bush's record within 4 years.