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American Methods | Author Article

Torturers ‘R’ Us

President Bush denies reality

In These Times, November 28, 2005

The national debate on torture reached a new level in October when the Senate voted 90 to nine to restrict Defense Department interrogation techniques and prohibit the “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment” of anyone in U.S. custody. The vote came as a major rebuke to President George Bush, who threatened to veto the military spending bill if the proposals were included.

Bush responded to the vote by publicly defending the United States’ existing practices. During his Latin American tour in early November, he said, “We are gathering information about where the terrorists may be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do … in this effort, any activity we conduct is within the law. We do not torture.”

Yet earlier that very week, Vice President Dick Cheney pleaded with Republican senators in a closed door meeting to exempt the CIA from the cruelty ban. The administration clearly does not like having its bluff called.

To understand the panic buzzing through the White House, you have to understand its philosophy. The administration has consistently read the law so as to minimize the protections offered to official enemies and maximize the power of the president. This approach has shaped almost every aspect of the “war on terror”—the suspension of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan, the designation of prisoners as “enemy combatants,” the establishment of “military tribunals” immune to the usual rules of evidence and procedure, and the effort to establish prisons beyond any court’s jurisdiction (first in Guantánamo, now secretly in Eastern Europe), as well as the exceedingly narrow definition of “torture” crafted by the Justice Department in 2002. (continue reading)

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