Battlepanda: Double Standards


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Double Standards

David Cole has an good article up on Slate about our torture policies, although you can see him hammering the same points over and over again, as if incredulous that this kind of tenuous and blatently self-biased reasoning passes legal muster these days:

[T]he Bush administration's justification for employing "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" against certain individuals expressly turns on the fact that these individuals are foreign nationals held abroad. The coercive-interrogation policy is predicated on a double standard: According to the administration, we can do it to "them" because "they" are different from "us."On this theory, what would indisputably be illegal if done on U.S. soil, or if done to a U.S. citizen anywhere in the world, becomes lawful when inflicted on foreign nationals held abroad...
And just when Congress appeared to be on the verge of doing something about it, Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the principal co-sponsors of the McCain Amendment, convinced the Senate to undercut the amendment by making it unenforceable—at least for the hundreds of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On Thursday night, the Senate approved Graham's proposal, which would selectively suspend the writ of habeas corpus for foreign nationals held at Guantanamo, denying them any access to a court for violations of constitutional or international law—even if they are being subjected to precisely the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that the McCain Amendment prohibits. Graham's amendment is predicated on the same double standard as the Bush administration's interpretation of the Torture Convention—namely, that it is somehow permissible to do to foreign nationals what would be patently unacceptable if done to citizens.

I can't imagine any American reading the above and not feel a little bit disgusted with their country. Those who try to justify all this with 24-esque hypotheticals ought to read the article below. I've not heard of one single, concrete instance where a confession extracted under torture has saved lives. But our insistence on putting people in hellholes like Gitmo and torture them has undoubtedly ruined innocent lives. The fact that those who suffered does not have an American passport should not lead us to be any more cavalier with their lives or their rights.
As the Senate prepared to vote Thursday to abolish the writ of habeas corpus, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl were railing about lawyers like me. Filing lawsuits on behalf of the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. Terrorists! Kyl must have said the word 30 times.

As I listened, I wished the senators could meet my client Adel.

Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.

The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus.

Only habeas corpus got Adel a chance to tell a federal judge what had happened. Only habeas corpus revealed that it wasn't just Adel who was innocent -- it was Abu Bakker and Ahmet and Ayoub and Zakerjain and Sadiq -- all Guantanamo "terrorists" whom the military has found innocent.

[...]The secretary of defense chained Adel, took him to Cuba, imprisoned him and sends teams of lawyers to fight any effort to get his case heard. Now the Senate has voted to lock down his only hope, the courts, and to throw away the key forever. Before they do this, I have a last request on his behalf. I make it to the 49 senators who voted for this amendment.

I'm back in Cuba today, maybe for the last time. Come down and join me. Sen. Graham, Sen. Kyl -- come meet the sleepy-eyed young man with the shy smile and the gentle manner. Afterward, as you look up at the bright stars over Cuba, remembering what you've seen in Camp Echo, see whether the word "terrorist" comes quite so readily to your lips. See whether the urge to abolish judicial review rests easy on your mind, or whether your heart begins to ache, as mine does, for the country I thought I knew.