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The Tally Ho

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Washtington Post on Mr. Gonzales

This is from an editorial in Friday's Washington Post
ALBERTO R. GONZALES missed an important opportunity yesterday to rectify his position, and that of President Bush, on the imprisonment and interrogation of foreign detainees. At the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on his nomination to be attorney general, Mr. Gonzales repeatedly was offered the chance to repudiate a legal judgment that the president is empowered to order torture in violation of U.S. law and immunize torturers from punishment. He declined to do so. He was invited to reject a 2002 ruling made under his direction that the infliction of pain short of serious physical injury, organ failure or death did not constitute torture. He answered: "I don't have a disagreement with the conclusions then reached." Nor did he condemn torture techniques, such as simulated drowning, that were discussed and approved during meetings in his office. "It is not my job," he said, to decide if they were proper. He was prompted to reflect on whether departing from the Geneva Conventions had been a mistake, in light of the shocking human rights abuses that have since been reported in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Guantanamo Bay prison and that continue even now. Mr. Gonzales demurred. The error, he answered, was not of administration policy but of "a failure of training and oversight."

The message Mr. Gonzales left with senators was unmistakable: As attorney general, he will seek no change in practices that have led to the torture and killing of scores of detainees and to the blackening of U.S. moral authority around the world. Instead, the Bush administration will continue to issue public declarations such as those Mr. Gonzales repeated yesterday -- "that torture and abuse will not be tolerated by this administration" -- while in practice sanctioning procedures that the International Red Cross and many lawyers inside the government consider to be illegal and improper...

...Yet Mr. Gonzales appeared willfully obtuse about the consequences of his most important judgments as White House counsel. He repeatedly misrepresented the war crimes that have occurred, suggesting they were limited to those shown in the photographs taken by the "night shift" at Abu Ghraib, when it is now documented that abuses occurred throughout Iraq, in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo and that they continued even after the photos became public. He again derided and mischaracterized the Geneva Conventions, claiming that they "limit our ability to solicit information from detainees" and prevent their prosecution for war crimes -- an interpretation at odds with that of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military's legal corps, the Red Cross, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and decades of U.S. experience in war.

I am assuming that he will be confirmed, even if by a narrow margin. Do we have the votes to block? I also assume that this is Mr. Bush's guy, and the White House won't let this one go down...


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