Wednesday, January 19, 2005

16 to 2

I know, I said it in the post below, but I feel the need to reiterate: the vote to endorse Rice was 16 to 2. All I can say is, they're going to have a hard time finding enough room in hell when this generation dies off. Here's a snippet from yesterday's hearing (evoking more than a little, Gonzales' hearing). Shouldn't this alone be enough to make any ethical Senator vote no:
SEN. DODD: Let me just come back to the point. I just want to make this simple question.

MS. RICE: Yes.

SEN. DODD: Is it your view, as a human matter, that water- boarding and the use, as we saw, in prisons in Iraq of nudity -- is that torture in your personal view, as a nominee here for the --

MS. RICE: Senator, I'm not going to speak to any specific interrogation techniques, but let me talk about Abu Ghraib, because that was not acceptable.

SEN. DODD: I'd like to just get your views on just a simple matter. It's a simple question I'm asking. I'm not --

MS. RICE: Well, you asked me about the incidents in Iraq, and --

SEN. DODD: (Off mike) -- asking about some very specific techniques that were used, whether or not you consider them to be torture or not.

MS. RICE: Senator, the determination of whether interrogation techniques are consistent with our international obligations and American law are made by the Justice Department. I don't want to comment on any specific interrogation techniques. I don't think that would be appropriate, and I think it would not be very good for American security.

SEN. DODD: Well, let's leave it, if that's your answer, there. It's a disappointing answer, I must say. The face of U.S. foreign policy is in the person of the secretary of State, and it's important at moments like this to be able to express yourself aside from the legalities of things, how you as a human being react to these kinds of activities. And with the world watching, when a simple question is raised about techniques that I think most people would conclude in this country are torture, it's important at a moment like that that you can speak clearly and directly without getting involved in the legalisms questions. I understand these involve some legal determinations, but as a human being how you feel about this, about to assume the position and be responsible for pursuing the human rights issues that this nation has been deeply committed to for decades, is a very important moment.

MS. RICE: Senator, I maintain the commitment and will maintain the commitment of the United States to norms of international behavior and to the legal norms that we have helped to --

SEN. DODD: Let me ask you this, then. What would happen if someone did this to an American? What would happen if we saw on television that a captured American was being subjected to these kind of activities? How would you react to it?

MS. RICE: Senator, the United States of America -- American personnel are not engaged in terrorism against innocents.

SEN. DODD: I wasn't asking you what they have been charged with. I'm asking whether or not, if you saw an American be treated like this, how would you react?

MS. RICE: We expect Americans to be -- because we are parties to the Geneva Conventions, we expect Americans to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

SEN. DODD: Of course we do. And do you consider these kinds of activities to violate the Geneva Conventions?

MS. RICE: We believe that there are certain categories of people, the al Qaeda, for instance, who were not covered by Geneva, that in fact it would have been a stretch to cover them under Geneva, would have weakened Geneva to cover them. But the president said that they had to be treated, as military necessity allowed, consistent with the application of Geneva.

SEN. DODD: Do me a favor. At the end of all of these hearings, I'd like you to spend about 15 minutes with John McCain and talk to him about this stuff. I think you'll get some good advice when it comes to the subject matter, someone who has been through this, about what the dangers are when we have sort of waffling answers about these questions and then Americans can be apprehended and what happens to them.

Let me move on, because I don't want to take up the committee's time on this particular point, but I'm troubled by your answer.
Boxer, of course, picked up the topic as well. After hammering away at it, she was able to obtain only a feeble legalistic answer saying basically, it's okay to torture people.

BOXER: Now last Thursday we find out that after the Senate unanimously approved an amendment to restrict the use of extreme interrogation measures by American intelligence officers, you wrote a letter, along with Mr. Bolten, to the members of the conference committee, asking them to strike that language from the final bill. And unfortunately, that is what they did, at your request.

Now -- (to staff) -- can you bring this over here, so I can see it? I want to read you the operative language that you asked to be struck from the bill, that was struck from the bill. "In general" -- and by the way, this was written by Joe Lieberman and John McCain -- John McCain, a man who knows what torture is. So he wrote this, with Joe Lieberman.

"In general, no prisoner shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited by the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States." Pretty straightforward, pretty elegant, bipartisan -- passed the Senate, that amendment, unanimously, every single member.

A letter comes, and the newspaper writes that at your request, "At the urging of the White House, congressional leaders scrapped a legislative measure last month that would have imposed new restrictions on the use of extreme interrogation measures by American intelligence officers. In a letter to members of Congress sent in October and made available by the White House on Wednesday" -- this is last week -- "Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, expressed opposition to the measure, on the grounds that it, quote, 'provides legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled under applicable law and policy.'"

MS. RICE: I was making -- I was making a broader point, Senator, which is that the Geneva Conventions should not be extended to those who don't live up to the obligations of the Geneva Convention.
Here's what I don't get. Truly. If the argument is that the Geneva Conventions don't apply to terrorists, any terrorists, because their identity as terrorists supersedes their identity as citizens of a nation that is a party to the Geneva Conventions, how is that argument valid when you're torturing people that you don't even have enough evidence to charge or try for a crime? I'm certain I must not have all of the information. And if I do, why didn't anybody in that hearing room say that to either Gonzales or Rice? What am I missing here?

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