As you all must know, Bush/Cheney want Congress to retroactively change the laws that have to do with the Geneva Convention. As the Geneva Convention has not been challenged for more than 50 years by anyone, one wonders why this is a priority for Bush/Cheney. It has to do with trying to absolve the CIA from responsibility for having been torturing all these many years and, more importantly, trying to get Bush/Cheney off the hook for war crimes. So, at the moment Bush/Cheney are pushing Congress to absolve them of responsibility for war crimes, while McCain, Warner, and Graham are trying to stop them by offering a different bill that would mandate staying with the Geneva Convention. With this impasse it is now being suggested there might be a compromise. What I would like to know is how you compromise on torture. That is, will the CIA agree to only torture on tuesdays, thursdays, and saturdays? Or will the definition of torture be changed so that waterboarding is okay but the use of vicious guard dogs is not? Perhaps the obnoxious loud music used 24 hours a day will have to be subject to Congressional approval? Just what is this compromise supposed to consist of? Compromising on torture? Only in the Bush/Cheney administration. What is really upsetting about this nonsense is that both bills, the Bush/Cheney version and the McCain, Warner, Graham version eliminate habeas corpus, the most basic human right that goes back all the way to the Magna Carta. Hey, why should anyone be allowed to challenge their arrest? What kind of democratic procedure is that? Especially in light of the fact that probably some 80 to 90 percent of those now incarcerated (many in secret prisons) are known to be basically innocent?
Let us consider the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, arrested by the CIA and sent to Syria to be tortured (which he was). The Canadian government has now proven beyond any doubt that he was completely innocent of any involvement whatsoever in terrorism. This did not keep the U.S. from illegally detaining him, sending him to Syria where he was tortured, and now trying to claim his case can't be heard because it might be a problem for Canadian/U.S. relations (which is also now known to be completely false). We definitely need to give Bush/Cheney more power to do this.
Let us also consider the case of Lieutenant Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse to serve in Iraq. Watada, who offered to serve in Afghanistan, but not in Iraq, because the latter is an illegal "war," is probably going to be court-martialed, apparently not so much because he refused to serve in Iraq, but because he did not act like an officer and a gentleman (he publicaly criticized Bush). This is an interesting case for a couple of reasons. First, it is an issue of free speech which has never before been used in a case of this kind. But more importantly, Watada claims that the Iraq "war" is illegal and for him to serve in it would make him complicit in war crimes. There clearly is written into the Military Code a statement that says any military person who is asked to commit an illegal act should be able to refuse. So this should come down to the basic question as to whether or not the Iraq "war" is legal (which it pretty clearly is not). Now, it would seem to me that if the Iraq "war" is an illegal war, and if the military code says an officer should refuse an illegal order, Watada has to be exonerated. As far as conduct not befitting an officer and a gentleman, does critizing the President constitute a crime (given the fact that a majority of the American Public is now doing the same thing). Personally, I believe Watada is completely in the right here and should be acquitted of any wrongdoing whatsoever. He does not want to be a war criminal. Who can blame him?
But this leads to the more important issue that now faces the American Public. There is no doubt whatsoever that Bush/Cheney and their cohorts are guilty of multiple war crimes. They know it, the world knows it. They are asking the Congress, and by implication the American Public to forgive them for their war crimes by passing retroactive laws to protect them (even though our constitution says retroactive laws have no legality). This is, I believe, an absolutely defining moment in American history. Is the Republican Party (with the aid of some Democrats), acting presumably on behalf of their constituents, going to protect known war criminals? Is our country, that led in the establishmen of the Nuremberg trials, that signed and actively promoted the Geneva Convention, that passed our own laws against war crimes, now going to protect those who are known to be guilty of such crimes? To do this is to thumb our nose at all the rest of the world, to claim that might does indeed make right, to join with Israel and Britain as pariah nations that stand in opposition to all the rest of humanity. Are we really prepared to do this? To protect Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice and the others who have brought about this apparently endless carnage and theft? I certainly hope not.