Friday, December 16, 2005

Making it clear to the world that this government does not torture

Dumbest quotes of 2005.

An amusing Clive James memoir of his youthful “literary education in sludge fiction” in the Times Literary Supplement.
“Bulldog Drummond arrived in my life like a descending testicle”.

Speaking of descending testicles, George Bush has come out in favor of the legal ban on torture he fought (and threatened to veto) for so long, after he realized that even Dick Cheney couldn’t stop it (at the White House ceremony yesterday in which Bush symbolically surrendered his cattle prod to John McCain, Cheney was conspicuous by his absence).

By next week, he’ll be saying it was all his idea. This week, it’s still only half his idea: he’s willing to give McCain half-credit for “work[ing] very closely” with him on their “common objective” “to make it clear to the world that this government does not torture”. Note that he’s more concerned with the appearance of not-torturing than with actually not torturing. His previous (and let’s face it, current and future) policy has been to achieve the same objective, convincing the world that the US doesn’t torture, by torturing but lying about it. McCain is too much of a partisan at heart to be trusted with ownership of this issue, but he did mischievously push some boundaries, strategically rephrasing what Bush had said: “now we can move forward and make sure that the whole world knows that, as the President has stated many times, that we do not practice cruel, inhuman treatment or torture.” Of course, Bush has said no such thing, confining himself to denouncing torture, as defined into non-existence by Alberto Gonzales.

So now that we have a law against torture, that should settle it huh? Moving on: the other big civil liberties story was of course Bush’s authorizing the NSA in 2002 to break the law by spying on Americans’ phone calls and electronic communications. The WaPo, which may not have recognized the implications of its own story, says “A senior official reached by telephone said the issue was too sensitive to talk about. None of several press officers responded to telephone or e-mail messages.” Ix-nay on the elephone-tay.

On the torture bill, there were some little loopholes written in: if torture somehow accidentally happened, the “evidence” arising from that torture could be used by military panels to decide whether to hold people forever in Guantanamo. Oh, and people held not on US soil couldn’t actually enforce the ban on torturing them in US courts. Little stuff like that.

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