Wednesday, July 12, 2006

W. goes compassionate for terrorists?

Yesterday, the Pentagon announced that all detainees in US military custody are now entitled to all the protections of the Geneva Conventions. To hear Tony Snow tell it, this is really nothing new, this is what the administration has been doing all along. Of course, in the real world this is a big step down from what had been the Bush administration's claim that they could do whatever the hell they felt like doing without the authorization of the Congress or the courts. (Of course, it all could just be a sham and it's business as usual)

The Supremes in a 5 to 3 ruling last week put paid to that wrongheaded notion and now we're seeing the administration scrambling to retain every scrap of the so-called "unitary presidency" it can get its hands on. No doubt, David Addington is feverishly working on legislation, giving W. cart blanc to do exactly what he was doing before, for Congress to rubber stamp, but I don't think its going to work this time. As I understand it, if Congress were to just codify Addington's dictats, it would all go back to the courts again anyway. Hopefully, there are enough moderate Republicans and Democrats -- not sporting their typical yellow streak down their backs at the mere mention of "weak on terrorism" -- who will do what's right and vote for the rule of law and human rights.

Though the ruling was specifically on the issue of Gitmo detainees and whether W. could try them in one of his kangaroo tribunals, many are now saying this crack in Addington's twisted legal theories could trickle down to W.'s other self-anointed executive prerogatives. At this very minute there are smart lawyers all over the country and members of the Congress working out ways to clip W.'s wings from the secret foreign detention centers to the NSA domestic spying program.

Newsweek reports this week that lawyers in the administration who opposed Addington's efforts to "find the legal equivalant of outer space" -- his perfect "lawless" universe --- where only the president makes the rules, have been vindicated in their warnings that this type of power grab could seriously backfire; and not just at home but internationally as well. Michael Isikoff and Stuart Taylor Jr. write in Newsweek that:

"...Other countries, emboldened by the [supreme court] ruling, could use the case to justify efforts to bring war crimes charges against CIA officers, U.S. service members and traveling government officials who had a hand in authorizing or carrying out harsh treatment of prisoners. Conceivably, those who violate provisions of [Geneva Conventions Common] Article 3 -- which mandate humane treatment for all captured prisoners -- could also be criminally prosecuted by future administrations under a U.S. law known as the War Crimes Act."

Even Ted Olson, W.'s former election fixer in the Supreme Court in the 2000 election, says, "The implications of this -- for potentially being arrested and tried in other countries -- is certainly a little scary." (All those CIA officers who kidnapped Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, or Abu Omar, in Milan in 2003 might want to avoid going to Italy -- like, forever.) Two people I can think of -- right off the top of my head -- who should be very worried about taking trips to 'Old Europe' or a Democratic administration taking power in 2008 are David Addington and John Yoo (aka. "Mr. Torture Memo"). Yoo, is quoted in the Newsweek article fuming that: "It shows that the imperial judiciary thinks that, in addition to abortion, affirmative action and religion, war should be within its grasp."

[Actually John, I think what they said was that our Constitution doesn't allow for an imperial presidency, and just to get the record straight; this is a court packed with a majority of Republican appointees, including two W. hand picked. My God, what else do you want; would replacing the Court with an American version of Hitler’s' Volks Gericht make you happy?]

One would hope that after receiving such a severe spanking for the Court W. would be worried enough about his precarious legal position, vis the two other branches, to cashier Addington for all the damage he's done. Naturally, that would also necessarily mean cleaning out Darth Cheney's office and sending him on trips to attend funerals of foreign dignitaries for the rest of the administration's term. In order for that to happen, however, he would have to close down Cheney's shadow government and assume all the powers of the presidency. Right now, he's nothing more than the head of state, kind of like Queen Elizabeth.


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