Thursday, June 10, 2004

Glad to see that even deep in the heart of Bush country, Texans still have their priorities straight (from the Dallas Morning News editorial page, my barometer of Outside-the-Beltway conservatism):
According to The Wall Street Journal, Bush administration legal memos from 2002 and 2003 argue that the United States isn't bound by international laws prohibiting torture. The Journal says the documents are part of a classified report on interrogation methods assembled for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And they put "obtaining intelligence vital to the protection of untold thousands of American citizens" above all considerations.

That's just not right. We don't need to suspend our principles to win the war on terrorism. We particularly don't need to jettison treaties that help us. If we ignore treaties governing conditions of war, then we lose our ability to appeal the next time an American soldier's captors start sticking it to him or her.

Not surprisingly, these memos have sparked a Washington tug of war. Attorney General John Ashcroft essentially says he'll release them over his dead body. And Democrats in Congress say the memos belong to the public.

We side with the Democrats. Mr. Ashcroft works for the president. But he and other government lawyers also work for us. We foot the bills, and we deserve to know what these memos say, even if President Bush never saw them.

The war against terror must be won. But we don't win it by sacrificing the rule of law. We've all heard this before, but the message evidently is not getting through to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The president needs to add this truth to his set of instincts.

I think this is a good point to keep in mind. You can rationalize torture all you want, but you can't escape the fact that when we flout the Geneva Conventions, we abandon our own POWs to the whims of less scrupulous nations. We don't sign these treaties out of our love of humanity, we sign them to uphold a universal standard that protects our men and women. The Geneva Conventions may well need modification, but these are hardly the channels by which to start that discussion.


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