Thursday, September 07, 2006

BUSH COMES CLEAN? Yesterday, as part of his pre-election fear-mongering tour, President Bush delivered an important speech in which he admitted that "a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States, in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency."

Well, that's Part A...but don't expect to hear Part B from barnstorming Bush any time soon: "Many specifics of this program, including where these detainees have been held and the details of their confinement, cannot be divulged. Doing so would provide our enemies with information they could use to take retribution against our allies and harm our country."

Here's another Part A:
We knew that Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking. As his questioning proceeded, it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation. And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures. These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful.
But don't expect Part B:
I cannot describe the specific methods used -- I think you understand why -- if I did, it would help the terrorists learn how to resist questioning, and to keep information from us that we need to prevent new attacks on our country. But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful, and necessary.
Using phraseology reminiscent of Richard M. Nixon, Bush stated
I want to be absolutely clear with our people, and the world: The United States does not torture. It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorized it -- and I will not authorize it.
But I imagine that, if grilled on the issue of torture, Bush might end up saying "that depends on what your definition of 'torture' is." As Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has put it, the White House policy is "we don't torture because we choose not to call it torture and we will fight all efforts to define torture according to its ordinary meaning."

Another part of Bush's speech warrants close attention:
It's important for Americans and others across the world to understand the kind of people held at Guantanamo. These aren't common criminals, or bystanders accidentally swept up on the battlefield -- we have in place a rigorous process to ensure those held at Guantanamo Bay belong at Guantanamo. Those held at Guantanamo include suspected bomb makers, terrorist trainers, recruiters and facilitators, and potential suicide bombers. They are in our custody so they cannot murder our people.
Yet a Nat Hentoff article previously cited by Blog About Town offers a different perspective based on a report from the Seton Hall School of Law:
There are now about 490 prisoners at Gitmo, and "55 percent of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or coalition allies.

"Only 8 percent of the detainees were characterized as Al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40 percent have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda at all and 18 percent have no definitive affiliation with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

"Only 5 percent of the detainees were captured by United States forces. [A total of] 86 percent of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody. This 86 percent of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were turned over to the United States at a time at which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies."

The Northern Alliance included Afghan warlords—not noted, to say the least, for their concern for any due process in rounding up "suspects" or the quality of the "evidence," if any, connecting their captives with terrorism. But these warlords were attracted by the generous sums the U.S. gave them for these suspects—many of whom were then warehoused at Gitmo.
The Bush administration may or may not condone torture, but it still seems to be torturing the language in order to rationalize its actions.

White House photo: Kimberlee Hewitt

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