Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Reply to Delahunty and Yoo

Yesterday the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed piece concerning the nomination of Judge Alberto Gonzales to be attorney general. (Read it here.) I've responded with this letter:

Re: "Rewriting the Laws of War for a New Enemy"

Professors Delahunty and Yoo ("Rewriting the Laws of War for a New Enemy," Feb. 1) have completely missed the point regarding opposition to the nomination of Judge Alberto Gonzales to be attorney general. Whether or not the Geneva Conventions protect particular combatants, the law prohibiting torture is absolute--"non-derogable" in the language of international lawyers--and universal in the same way the ban on slavery is universal.

The Senate Judiciary Committee's questioning of Judge Gonzales focused on the issue of torture from the very first question posed by Sen. Specter: "Do you approve of torture?" When in our history has it ever been necessary to ask an attorney general nominee that question?

Judge Gonzales answered Sen. Specter's question the way any humane person must, but when questioned about specific techniques, he waffled. Perhaps we can tolerate an attorney general nominee who waffles on the exclusionary rule or federal sentencing guidelines or even the scope of the Geneva Conventions, but waffling on torture is intolerable. That is why those who care about human rights oppose Judge Gonzales.

Robert E. Williams