Bush: ditch Geneva Conventions, habeas corpus

What’s really terrifying about Bush’s bid for Congress to address the controversy around torture and detainment is that, if lawmakers take the bait, there will cease to be a torture scandal and torture will be normalized. We are approaching a tipping point in the trajectory towards real fascism. From The Guardian, Sept. 15:

Geneva conventions vague, says Bush
The US president, George Bush, today dismissed the Geneva conventions on the laws of war as “vague” and called on Congress to back controversial new rules on the handling of terror suspects.

Mr Bush’s remarks came after the proposed laws were yesterday rejected by senior Republicans including the former secretary of state Colin Powell and the influential senator John McCain.


Mr Bush said the interrogation of the terror suspects would have to end if the new laws were not passed. “This programme won’t go forward if there’s vague standards applied like those in the Geneva Conventions,” he said.

“Perhaps some in Congress don’t think this programme is important. I think it’s vital. I got to give [interrogators] the tools they need.”

A military handbook released at the same time as the announcement outlawed the use of a broad range of torture techniques – including the playing of loud music, forcing prisoners to hold uncomfortable poses and simulated drownings – by military personnel.

However, it did not cover the behaviour of CIA officers, who are responsible for interrogating most terrorist suspects.

New laws proposed by Mr Bush would pave the way for trying the 14 suspects under a system of military commissions, and would prevent any prosecutions over the treatment of terror detainees until now.

When they were announced last week, Mr Bush admitted the al-Qaida suspect Abu Zubaydah had been subjected to several “tough” alternative interrogation techniques during his incarceration.

Reports indicated that these techniques included punches and slaps, naked confinement in cold cells and being forced to stand for long stretches at a time.

Mr Bush claimed the techniques – which would contravene the Geneva conventions on inhuman and degrading treatment – did not constitute torture.

He added that the interrogations had provided information useful to terrorism investigators, although he did not provide any specific information.

The Center for Constitutional Rights warns:

Stop U.S. Authorization of Indefinite Detention
Will the U.S. authorize indefinite detention – without any possibility of judicial review – for anyone labeled an “enemy combatant”? Even if those people are actually innocent? Please take a moment to call your Senators first thing this morning at (202) 224-3121, especially if they are on the Armed Services Committee (see the list at the bottom of this email), and send a fax TODAY through our website.

We’re in a brutal legislative fight over two bills proposed by President Bush and Senator Warner to legislate military commissions. However problematic the commissions are, they’re a distraction from the really dangerous provisions that would strip detainees of their right to challenge the legality of their detention. The bottom line is, if either bill passes as currently written, it would prevent anyone taken into U.S. custody – anywhere in the world, past, present or future, innocent or not – from ever having their case heard. This goes against every principle this country was founded on.

Every person detained by our nation must receive a fair hearing. After all, wouldn’t we demand that right for our soldiers and civilians if they were captured by our enemies abroad?

We need your help urgently in order to stop this legislation!

Last week the President admitted to detaining men in secret CIA facilities and transferred 14 of them to Guantánamo: since it has become embarrassingly clear from the military’s own documents that most of the men at Guantánamo have nothing to do with terrorism and were often given over to the U.S. for bounty when they were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, the Administration’s strategy was to move a handful of actual high-level detainees there so they could push through this legislation.

Here are some talking points for your calls. The military commissions bills pending in Congress would:

*authorize the lifelong detention of more than 400 men imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay – men who have never been charged with a crime or received a fair hearing – many of whom our military admits never took up arms against the U.S.

*give President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld absolute discretion to lock up farmers and humanitarian aid workers for life – based on their exclusive determination that these men are “enemy combatants” – and subject these men to whatever treatment they themselves deem appropriate and legal.

*prevent any accountability for torture or abuse of detainees, rendering the McCain Amendment prohibiting torture unenforceable.

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATORS IMMEDIATELY. Tell them that the American people will not tolerate indefinite detention in our name – at Guantánamo or anywhere else in the world. Tell them that executive detention must be subject to judicial review. No military commission bill should limit the most fundamental of all rights – habeas corpus.

Thank you for all your help.


Vincent Warren
Executive Director

See our last posts on the torture controversy.