Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Exception to the Rule

I shouldn't be surprised by it, really. But I am getting a little annoyed by the media's couching of terms surrounding the battle between the White House and the Senate over the anti-torture ammendment in the recently passed military spending bill. The NY Times headlines the story thusly,
White House Seeks Exception in Abuse Ban
Talk about dancing around the issue. NYT makes it sound like that's a good thing. It would be much more appropriate, if considerably less than unbiased in the eyes of Bush supporters, would be a headline that read something like,
White House Seeks to Extend Detainee Abuse
Because that's what it really about.

As with the Abu Graib debacle, where the administration insisted that abusing prisoners is not an "American value" and that just because we did it doesn't mean we'll do it ... again, the White House will, in this case, insist that they won't actually abuse people but it's just nice to have to option open. Hey, you never know when it might come in handy, like a free safety floating around in the backfield.

In mentioning Abu Graib, I want to reiterate the now rather specious notion that Bush and other administration officials insisted on: torture and abuse are not part of some American value system. Let us ignore whether the rest of the world -- especially the muslim world after the latest atrocity in Afghanistan -- believes Bush when he says such things. Let's pay attention to what White House insistance on getting exceptions to anti-toture laws says about, not only this administration, but our vaunted system of values.

When Abu Graib first hit the news, Bush defenders laughed about the abuse: why is wasn't abuse at all! Just a laughing good time. As more and more and more news came out that the abuse was widespread, systemic and had resulted in the deaths of many detainees, the rhetoric on the right shifted to defense of the practices on the same grounds the White House used: enemy combatants can be tortured. They're not real soldiers. Have at it! Clearly, these folks didn't seem to possess those American values that George Bush thought Americans must have. Of course, George Bush and the rest of the White House do not express such values either.

This couldn't be better illustrated than by the current disagreement between the Senate and the White House. Bush has threatened to veto the bill -- his first and only veto to date if he uses it here -- if the amendment is not removed or, apparently, if they cannot get some sort of "exception" to the rule. They're really demonstrating to the world the unseemly side of themselves -- many might say that is the only kind of side they have -- by even getting into such an argument. And, of course, the fact that it even is an argument is what I find to be beyond belief.

Frankly, I have no idea why the White House is pursuing this at all. It is serving only make them look like the ruthless, bloodyminded bastards many already think they are. Why pursue it? Does anyone seriously think that the CIA or military intelligence or whatever other black-ops groups are out there will not torture people in far away lands when the mood strikes them? Shit, they're probably doing so right now, somewhere.

So why is the White House assuming the publicly assinine position of "wanting" to retain an ability to officially condone the abuse and torture of detainees? I can't imagine. Apart from displaying abject moral turpitude, it is a political dead-ender. Why even bother? But if we thought the world distrusted us as hypocritical jokers before, well, guess what? We are looking worse to them right now for even having such a debate and, if the Senate backs down, any chance of recovering some of the world's respect will disappear. And, for all intents and purposes, the US will look like some fucking tinpot dictatorship ... with nukes.


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