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Democrats Cave on Torture, while Amnesty Fights Back

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After hiding behind the skirts of Republican "dissidents" such as Sen. Lindsey Graham as the GOP debated torture, Democratic leaders have either been silent, ineffective or signalled they'll accept the compromise that still permits interrogators to torture and abuse detainees, as long as the President gives his okay. As Glenn Greenwald points out, "The apparent support for the torture/detention bill by at least some (and perhaps the majority of) Senate Democrats -- including their Leader, Harry Reid -- is as politically self-destructive as it is unconscionable on the merits." Yesterday, the House went along 253-168, in part due to lackluster and unfocused leadership on this issue by Democrats. 34 House Democrats, many in competitive races and fearful of negative ads on national security, joined with the Republicans.

But Amnesty International, which has rallied countless people to free prisoners around the world, is urging citizens to email and phone their legislators through an easy website with operators who will patch you through to your Senator, or route your email, so your voice can be heard. As Amnesty proclaims:

"Tell your elected officials no compromise on torture.

Last Thursday, President Bush and several members of the Senate struck a deal on human rights. In the process, they dealt away America's commitment to fundamental human rights principles.

Make no mistake about it, this deal is a betrayal of the America we believe in. No human rights activist can remain on the sidelines in the days ahead. Call on your Senator to oppose these dangerous provisions.

We are literally days away from action in Congress on a proposal to:

Abandon the rule of law and give the President the freedom to interpret the Geneva Conventions any way he sees fit.

Provide immunity to those responsible for past human rights abuses.

Exempt from prosecution those who authorize treatment traditionally considered torture.

Strip detainees of access to US courts.

The soul of our nation is in jeopardy. Everything we believe in is on the line. If America renounces the Geneva Conventions like President Bush wants to do, nations all over the world will follow. American soldiers will be placed in greater threat of torture and cruel treatment when captured, not just by one or two rogue nations, but by many nations that follow America's lead.

Call 1-800-AMNESTY and our operators will connect you or call the Congressional switch board directly at 202-224-3121 (or look up your officials info). Let the person on the phone know that you are a constituent, and tell them that the deal President Bush has struck is a betrayal of the America you believe in. Ask your Senator and representative to stand firm in defense of human rights."

To keep up to date on the progress of the legislation, and learn more why this morally outrageous bill should be opposed by anyone with a conscience, check the detailed legal postings by law professors such as Marty Lederman at the Balkinization blog, and check the Amnesty and Greenwald sites regularly.

As Jack Balkin says, " I am puzzled by and ashamed of the Democrats' moral cowardice on this bill. The latest version of the bill blesses detainee abuse and looks the other way on forms of detainee torture; it immunizes terrible acts; it abridges the writ of habeas corpus-- in the last, most egregious draft, it strips the writ for alleged enemy combatants whether proved to be so or not, whether citizens or not, and whether found in the U.S. or overseas.

"This bill is simply outrageous. I doubt whether many Democratic Senators or staffs have read the bill or understand what is in it. Instead, they seem to be scrambling over themselves to vote for it out of a fear that the American public will think them weak and soft on terror."

But you have an opportunity to stand up for human dignity, morality and international law when the Democratic Party won't do so. Place a call. Send an email. Your voice can be heard.