The Bush White House seems to have finally, grudgingly accepted that it must obey the Article 3 provisions of the Geneva Conventions for the treatment of prisoners. His Excellency is now willing to abide by the Supreme Court's ruling that repudiated his assertion that the government could hold anybody, anytime, snatched up from anywhere, indefinitely (with perhaps a kangaroo court thrown in for good measure). Let's hope that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Gonzales legal contortions to justify torture and the shredding of habeas corpus can now be relegated to the ashbin of history.
An impressive coalition of legal experts and Constitutional law organizations, including the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, had challenged the Bush Administration's detention policies from the moment they were concocted. Meantime, we've seen Jay Bybee, the Justice Department lawyer who was instrumental in eviscerating the anti-torture statutes, appointed to a federal judgeship, and Alberto Gonzales, Bush's legal lapdog who had rendered the Geneva Conventions "quaint," promoted to Attorney General. And as if to rub salt in the wounds, or to show his utter contempt for the Congress and the American people, Bush re-appointed William Haynes, the key Defense Department advocate for torture, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District. Do these people have no shame?
For the past five years the corporate media framed the debate on the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo and elsewhere as a political and ideological food fight between "Democrats" and "Republicans," "Liberals" and "Conservatives." But this media framing was a disservice to the public. The Administration had launched a new and dangerous set of illegal executive orders that threatened the civil liberties of us all, and severely undermined the moral standing of the United States in the eyes of the world. There is nothing "conservative" or "Republican" about advocating torture and tossing out the Geneva Conventions and all of the statutes and treaties pertaining thereto.
While the Russerts and the Lehrers framed the torture and detainee debate as a contest between "Democrats" and "Republicans," the Coulters and the Limbaughs and the O'Reillys, and the rest of the right-wing chorus on the public airwaves, screamed that those who called for the United States to abide by the Geneva Conventions were "Bush-haters" and "traitors" who "want the terrorists to win." Well, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the "traitors." And, for now, the Administration apparently has conceded the point.
The American people and the Congress must seize the opportunity of this first chink in the "Decider's" armor to begin the long process of reining in this renegade administration and re-asserting a semblance of "checks and balances." A good start would be to block, with a filibuster if necessary, the nomination of the torture advocate William Haynes, and start a real investigation of the NSA spying programs.
Joseph A. Palermo is the author of "In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy," (Columbia 2001). Email to: email@example.com