From an L.A. Times story reporting Sen. McCain's threat to add his terrorist interrogation amendment to every Senate bill until it's enacted:
"Girding for a potential fight with the Bush administration, supporters of a ban on torturing prisoners of war by U.S. interrogators threatened Friday to include the prohibition in nearly every bill the Senate considers until it becomes law."
Rarely have so many misstatements been crammed into one sentence. It's entirely understandable that the L.A. Times gets it so wrong given the demagogic nonsense passing for analysis of the McCain amendment. We have to reset the terms of the debate so people can see what is going on, and what is at stake.
First, the McCain amendment has NOTHING to do with whether torture is illegal. It already is (Title 18 US Code, Section 2340. You can look it up), for soldiers as well as CIA agents. Regardless of whether the McCain amendment passes or not, torture is and will be illegal. Period. And, as I wrote in my Monday column, the only thing the McCain amendment does is to muddy the legal waters by injecting broad and undefined terms into a law that is now just fine.
The debate on the McCain amendment is purposefully phrased in misleading -- no, make that entirely false -- terms. The proponents are calumniating the opponents by saying they want to permit torture. Because McCain and his crew have succeeded so far, no debate on this useless, dangerous, and incredibly bad amendment has been had. Sen. McCain is once again proving himself unmoved by fact, logic, or law. Given the position of the administration (prone) there is no noticeable effort to stop McCain. (So he needn't gird for a fight. He's the only one in the ring.) This has to change. The president promised to veto any bill containing the McCain provision. No one takes the threat seriously, least of all Sen. McCain. The president needs to speak out on this again, and forcefully. Setting the record straight for starters would be in order.
Terrorist prisoners are not -- for the umpteenth time -- POWs. They are excluded from that status by the clear wording of the Geneva Conventions. You can look that up, too. Someone should remind the Senate that we don't torture people. But making the law on interrogations so vague and indecipherable can only benefit the terrorists.
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