Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Thursday, June 10, 2004


Bush and the Torture Memo

Remember this bit from John Ashcroft the other day?

[The administration] has operated with respect to all of the laws enacted by the Congress, all of the treaties embraced by the president and the Congress together, and the Constitution of the United States, and no direction or order has been given to violate any of those laws.

Those words came back to me when I was at the gym this afternoon, and I happened to catch a bit of Bush's press conference from Sea Island (transcript here). This question from a BBC reporter caught my attention:

Q: Mr. President, I wanted to return to the question of torture. What we've learned from these memos this week is that the Department of Justice lawyers and the Pentagon lawyers have essentially worked out a way that U.S. officials can torture detainees without running afoul of the law.

So when you say that you want the U.S. to adhere to international and U.S. laws, that's not very comforting. This is a moral question: Is torture ever justified?

The point, of course, is that it is meaningless to claim that you want to adhere to the law, or that you've issued no orders to violate the law, when you have in hand a lengthy legal opinion that was clearly created for no other purpose than to introduce as much flexibility as possible into your notion of what is legal.

Bush, rather shrewdly in my opinion, acted deliberately obtuse, as if he had missed the point altogether. Here’s his entire response:
BUSH: Look, I'm going to say it one more time. Maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you.

We're a nation of law. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at these laws. And that might provide comfort for you. And those were the instructions from me to the government.

I doubt the BBC reporter was in any way "comforted" by this act, nor was I. The question of morality was ignored, and the obviously meaningless & disingenuous claim about “adherence to the law” was simply repeated, testily.

But some of the reporters in the room, who should certainly know better, apparently fell for it.

Just moments later, Judy Woodruff was on CNN reporting (this is approximate, from memory) that Bush, “when challenged on the torture memo, replied that he instructed people to adhere to the law.”

This AP report is equally clueless.
Addressing advice the White House got suggesting torture might be allowed for some terrorist interrogations, President Bush said Thursday he ordered U.S. officials to act consistent with law and international treaties.

And these people get paid to write this stuff....


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