Anyone want to dance with Condoleezza Rice? Most likely not Colin Powell. Ignoring the lead of her predecessor, former Secretary of State Powell, Ms. Rice yesterday decided to stand by her man, the president, and Mr. Cheney, by backing this administration's continuing efforts to deconstruct Geneva in their dubious campaign against an invisible, and ostensibly invincible, adversary.
As you're already aware, the alternative bill proposed by John McCain at the meeting of the Armed Services Committee yesterday passed by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 which spells trouble for a White House determined to nuance what has been considered accepted practice internationally for treatment of prisoners detained during wartime for generations.
The one character who is always to be counted on for commentary, like the fool in "Othello," White House Press Secretary Tony Snow hit the nail squarely on the head when he suggested that critics of this administration's attempt to circumnavigate international law by way of new legislation merely "misconstrue" their government's "intent" which is to "define the Geneva Conventions" ban on cruel and inhumane treatment, and not to undermine it." (WaPo) How dare any government that has been in power for 6 years tamper with accepted definitions of torture for decades? What unmitigated gaul, not to mention pernicious revisionism, to admit to tweaking Geneva so that it serves the unitary meglomaniacal mission of this presidency?
Yes, yes, Tony Snow is right---this administration's aim is not to endorse torture, but to neutralize it to such a degree, by linguistic sleight of hand, that it is no longer torture, but torture light. This is unacceptable, even to the most primitive, and sophistic minds. It is unacceptable to "redefine" torture such that it becomes conceptually palatable just as we've come to accept that counterfeit phrase "collateral damage" as a way to avoid the blood and guts behind wartime civilian death. Indeed, the White House press secretary (the president's fool?) hits a bull's eye when he asserts that this Commander-in-Chief attempts not merely to redefine torture, but prisoner of war status, as well as undermine the core principle of due process, namely that every prisoner held captive be entitled to know the reason for his detention, as well as the evidence that put him there.
Consider, too, for a moment the audacity inherent in Snow's suggestion that Colin Powell, himself a former Secretary of State, and a military man, is "confused" (WaPo) because he backs Senator McCain's alternate bill repudiating this government's ongoing attempts to reinvent the language by which we wage war, and take prisoners. Good for those senators, on both sides of the aisle, who endorsed McCain's bill which calls for full adherence to the Geneva Conventions, and giving detainees access to evidence against them. Good for those who stood up, in the Senate yesterday, to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney's best efforts to award carte blanche to the CIA, and immunity from future prosecution, for what can only be considered war crimes. While the legislation proposed by John McCain is far from perfect, it's provides an effective starting point.
Shame on Condeleeza Rice, as well as any future secretary of state who is willing to go along for a ride down the slippery, and dangerous slope with a government that works overtime to rewrite the laws faster than they can break them.