Friday, July 22, 2005

A White House Threat

The Bush Administration has threatened to veto the defense appropriation if Congress amends it to require that detainees be treated humanely or includes language calling for an independent commission to investigate detainee abuse. Such proposals are being pushed by, among others, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, both Republicans.

According to the White House, legislation requiring humane treatment of prisoners in American custody would "interfere with the protection of Americans from terrorism by diverting resources from the war."

First, the Bush Administration backed away from any form of international accountability for human rights violations by "unsigning" the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It then reinterpreted U.S. law (as well as longstanding international law) in such a way as to restrict the meaning of torture. Then it engaged in torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment--over and over--and suggested, when such practices were unveiled through photographs taken at Abu Ghraib, that the problems were caused by a few "bad apples" (and low-ranking ones, at that). Now the Administration is telling Congress not to interfere. If Congress does not "interfere," it will be abdicating both its lawmaking and its oversight responsibilities. It will also be saying to President Bush, yet again, "Do whatever you want." Checks and balances in our government will be dead.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this sad story is that it is not at all clear how it will come out. Congress may well continue to encourage torture by failing to act.

[Via Balkinization.]