Jewish World Review Sept. 19, 2005/ 15 Elul,
A definition of patriotism
The McCain amendments have been swept out of the media by the
disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the John Roberts'
nomination, and the eager envelopment of Cindy Sheehan by such
clones of Michael Moore as MoveOn.org.
Affirming American values, McCain's first amendment would have
established "the Army Field manual as the standard for interrogation
of all detainees held in the Department of Defense (DOD) custody."
He noted that a new edition of the Army manual is due out soon, but
his amendment would require that congressional defense committees be
informed 30 days before any revisions. In view of the bypassing of
the Army Field manual in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan
resulting in the abuses of prisoners "the revisions would have to
be consistent with (our) laws and treaty obligations."
Tellingly, McCain added, "Had the manual been followed across the
board, we could have avoided the prisoner abuse scandal."
McCain's position is hardly radical, and, in fact, is strongly
supported by several high-ranking former military officers and some
of the military prosecutors enmeshed in the administration's version
of "military commissions," that evade due process, at Guantanamo
Another McCain amendment, he told his colleagues, would have
required that "each individual detained in a DOD facility who is a
national of a foreign country be registered with the International
Committee of the Red Cross. That's it. Just registered. This will
help us eliminate the problem of ghost detainees we faced in Abu
Ghraib prison in Iraq, in which other government agencies held
unregistered detainees in a facility operated by our military. I
believe this provision to be just basic common sense, and I can
hardly see how anyone could object, though I don't doubt the
sensitivity of my colleagues."
The White House did object to the amendments, and instructed Senate
Majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to pull the whole Pentagon
spending bill off the Senate floor lest the Senate pass the
amendments with the bills.
A third amendment, which, like the others, was joined by Republican
Sens. John Warner (Virginia) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)
himself a former military lawyer would have prohibited the
"cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of anyone in American
custody" the very language of the U.N. Convention Against
Torture, which this country has ratified. Obviously, that McCain
amendment would not have been necessary if there wasn't a pattern of
American detainees being treated in this way.
"We are Americans," McCain said on the Senate floor, "and we hold
ourselves to humane standards of treatment of people no matter how
evil or terrible they may be. ... President Bush understands that
the war on terror is ultimately a battle of ideas, a battle we will
win by spreading and standing firmly for the values of decency,
democracy and the rule of law. I stand with him in this commitment."
But if this is what President Bush believes, why are these
amendments necessary to prevent a repeat of what was clearly and
abundantly documented not only by human rights organizations, but
also by some of our own military witnesses in the field?
I hear reports that Warner (chairman of the Senate Armed Services
Committee) may conduct an investigation of charges concerning the
abuse of detainees. I would have preferred an independent inquiry by
a commission, including former and present military judge advocate
However, previous calls for an independent commission have gone
nowhere. Instead, there have been whitewashes by purported
investigations set up by the Defense Department. And, strangely,
McCain and Lindsey do not support a congressional investigation.
President Bush, moreover, has expressed no interest in truly
independent inquiries, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has
rebuffed the idea. After all, Gonzales would be a witness concerning
"the torture memos" he orchestrated when he was a counsel to the
If Warner does go ahead with an investigation, I hope he will
remember McCain's words: "We are not simply any other country. We
stand for something more in the world a moral mission, one of
freedom and democracy and human rights at home and abroad."
Meanwhile, the McCain amendments remain attached to the Pentagon
spending bill when it returns to the Senate floor. Will George W.
Bush veto that bill if it's passed with the amendments? Or will he
take the democratic American alternative, and let a Senate vote on
the McCain amendments stand, if they're adopted? Or will he try
again to have the entire bill pulled off the floor?
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