Architect of Abu Ghraib Torture is Bush's Pick for Attorney General
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Update: Abu Graib Torture Architect Alberto Gonzales is Pro-Abortion, Has Shady Connections to Enron and Kept Bush from Having to Disclose a Drunk Driving Arrest

infowars.com
November 12, 2004

Not only was White House attorney Alberto Gonzalez (Bush's Pick for Attorney General) the architect of Abu Ghraib torture (scroll down for more info), he is a big proponent for abortion.

Today CNN Reported:

"As a member of the court, Gonzales ruled with the majority that some teenage girls should not be required to get parental permission for an abortion." The complete article is posted below.

and on November 6, Knight Ridder Reported:

"Gonzales also has connections to scandal-ridden energy giant Enron. He is a former partner in the Houston law firm Vinson and Elkins, which represented Enron. He also received $6,500 in campaign contributions from the company when he ran for re-election to the Texas Supreme Court." The complete article is posted below.

Of course, it comes as no surprise that our "conservative" and "caring" leader should select this man as his pick for Attorney General. For, in addition to his elevating Bush to god-emperor status and putting him above the law in White House memos, Gonzalez acted as Bush's general counsel in 1996, getting him excused from jury duty that would have led to his having to disclose a 1976 arrest for drunk driving.

Read Who is Alberto Gonzalez for more information on the true nature of this shady character Bush would have as our Attorney General.

Gonzales nomination angers abortion foes

CNN | November 12 2004

(CNN) -- An anti-abortion group Thursday accused President Bush of ignoring his anti-abortion principles in nominating White House counsel Alberto Gonzales for the post of attorney general.

"As a Texas Supreme Court justice, Gonzales' rulings implied he does not view abortion as a heinous crime," said Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, in a written statement.

Bush announced Wednesday that he had chosen his long-time friend to replace Attorney General John Ashcroft, who is stepping down. (Bush picks Gonzales to head Justice Department)

Gonzales has worked with Bush since he was the governor of Texas -- serving as Bush's general counsel, then as Texas Secretary of State before Bush appointed him to the state's highest court. (Gonzales political fortunes tied to Bush's)

As a member of the court, Gonzales ruled with the majority that some teenage girls should not be required to get parental permission for an abortion.

In his opinion on the ruling, Gonzales wrote, "While the ramifications of such a law may be personally troubling to me as a parent, it is my obligation as a judge to impartially apply the laws of this state without imposing my moral view on the decisions of the legislature."

Brown said that "choosing not to rule against abortion, in any situation, is the epitome of denying justice for an entire segment of the American population -- pre-born babies in the womb."

She also cited a 2001 interview with the Los Angeles Times in which Gonzales was asked whether his personal view of abortion would play a role in his vetting of judges.

He responded, "There are no litmus tests for judicial candidates. ... My own personal feelings about (abortion) don't matter. ... The question is, what is the law, what is the precedent, what is binding in rendering your decision. Sometimes, interpreting a statute, you may have to uphold a statute that you may find personally offensive. But as a judge, that's your job."

Said Brown, "Gonzales' position is clear: The personhood of the pre-born human being is secondary to technical points of law, and that is a deadly perspective for anyone to take. ...

"Why is President Bush betraying the babies? Justice begins with protecting the most vulnerable in our midst. Please, Mr. President -- just say no to the unjust views of Alberto Gonzales."

But the stance of anti-abortion groups was not uniform. The president of Operation Rescue, based in Sacramento, California, said he had not yet formed an opinion on the nomination.

"I'm still studying it," said Troy Newman. "I know he's not the strongest advocate for life."

"I'm glad he's not up for Supreme Court justice," said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, who runs the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington. "His feelings on abortion we're a little concerned about."

Gonzales has also been criticized by civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero issued a statement calling for a confirmation process "that scrutinizes Mr. Gonzales' positions on key civil liberties and human rights issues.

"Particular attention should be devoted to exploring Mr.Gonzales' proposed policies on the constitutionality of the Patriot Act, the Guantanamo Bay detentions, the designation of United States citizens as enemy combatants and reproductive rights."

He also called for Gonzales to be asked about a May 16, 2004, memo, written as counsel to the White House, "which described certain legal protections guaranteed in the Geneva Conventions to persons captured during military hostilities as 'obsolete' and 'quaint.' "

 

Spotlight on Enron's law firm

San Francisco Chronicle | February 15, 2002
David Lazarus

Alberto Gonzales enjoys a reputation for covering George W. Bush's back.

In 1996, for example, Gonzales, as Bush's general counsel, managed to get the then-Texas governor excused from jury duty, thus saving Bush from having to disclose a 1976 arrest for drunk driving.

Bush rewarded Gonzales' loyalty by subsequently appointing him Texas' secretary of state and then to a seat on the Texas Supreme Court. And today, Gonzales is still watching Bush's flank as White House counsel.

But before Gonzales became a permanent fixture of Team W, he was a partner at the powerful Houston law firm Vinson & Elkins, and that's something congressional investigators are apparently taking a closer look at.

Sources tell me that investigators are following up on tips that Vinson & Elkins may have briefed former partners in advance on the findings of a top- secret probe into Enron's shady business dealings.

Enron had quietly asked Vinson & Elkins to conduct the probe in mid-August after a company official, Sherron Watkins, warned former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay that the deals could constitute fraudulent behavior.

Watkins reiterated to Congress yesterday that she was "highly alarmed" by what she'd learned. She said Lay had promised to look into the matter.

An oral report on Vinson & Elkins' findings was made to Lay on Sept. 21, and a written report was submitted to Enron on Oct. 15. It concluded that while Enron's activities did not warrant further investigation, "there is a serious risk of adverse publicity and litigation."

Enron is Vinson & Elkins' biggest client. Joseph Dilg, Vinson & Elkins' managing partner, rose through the ranks specializing in work for the energy trader. Enron's own general counsel, James Derrick, is a former Vinson & Elkins partner.

Not surprisingly, many Vinson & Elkins partners, as well as those who have departed the firm, are Enron shareholders. For congressional investigators now poring over Enron's affairs, the tight relationship between the company and its lawyers is a source of concern.

The question they're asking is whether Vinson & Elkins tried to look after its own by passing word to former partners -- especially those in high places - - about potential trouble brewing at Enron's headquarters.

If so, was Gonzales among them? And if that was the case, did the White House have direct knowledge of Enron's financial difficulties weeks before the news wiped out billions of dollars in shareholder value?

If nothing else, the White House could have asked federal energy regulators to explore Enron's financial well-being well before the company was on its last legs.

White House spokeswoman Anne Womack said that "to the best of his recollection," Gonzales "can't recall having had any conversations with anyone at Vinson & Elkins about Enron since last summer."

Joe Householder, a spokesman for Vinson & Elkins, also said the firm has had no contact with Gonzales about Enron.

But Craig McDonald isn't so sure. The director of Texans for Public Justice,

a watchdog group that's tracked Gonzales' career for years, said he wouldn't be at all surprised if Vinson & Elkins had shared its findings with the White House counsel.

"It's definitely plausible," McDonald said. "Gonzales is part of the V&E network. These guys protect each other."

Gonzales, 46, worked for Vinson & Elkins from 1982 through 1992, when he was tapped by Bush to become the then-governor's general counsel.

The law firm and Enron were Gonzales' main financial backers when he ran in 2000 to hold his seat on the supreme court. Vinson & Elkins contributed $29, 450 and Enron ponied up another $6,500.

The White House's Womack said there was no significance to this generosity. "It says that Enron and Vinson & Elkins took an interest in supporting Judge Gonzales," she said. "It's not unusual for a law firm to support someone who used to work there."

But McDonald at Texans for Public Justice said Vinson & Elkins' interest may have gone beyond mere boosterism. "They give more political money than anyone else, and this helps them with access to government officials," he said.

"That's what they're all about."

In an interview last year with Hispanic magazine, Gonzales said he never really embraced Republican ideology until joining Vinson & Elkins.

He also said he was personally assured by Bush before becoming White House counsel that "we're going to have a clean administration."

Gonzales is now the point man in the administration's effort to keep hidden Vice President Dick Cheney's notes regarding moves by Enron's Lay and others to shape national energy policy.

Congress' General Accounting Office is suing for access to the potentially sensational documents.

Gonzales also helped draft Bush's plan for secret military tribunals to try foreigners suspected of terrorism -- an idea that ran into a firestorm of criticism from civil libertarians.

Meanwhile, Bush, who prizes loyalty above all other things, may have even more plans for his favorite attorney. The buzz in Washington is that Gonzales is the president's top choice should a vacancy open on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Something tells me that this wouldn't be an unwelcome development in the boardroom of a certain Houston law firm.

 

Alberto Gonzales popping up on short lists for Supreme Court

Knight Ridder Newspapers | November 6, 2004

BY MARIA RECIO

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, a Texan and confidant of President Bush, is suddenly the focus of intense speculation that he will be Bush's choice to fill a Supreme Court vacancy when it arises.

Although there is no immediate opening, Bush's election victory and the illness of Chief Justice William Rehnquist have focused observers' attention on the near certainty of one or more openings in the next four years.

And Gonzales, 49, makes everyone's short list of Supreme Court prospects.

"We certainly think that he would be a wonderful pick for the president to make," said Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. "We would love to see a Hispanic on the Supreme Court."

Hispanic organizations are already mobilizing in support of what would be the first Latino appointment to the court.

"We hear his name first," said Jim Backlin, vice president of legislative affairs for the Christian Coalition. "We think he's probably going to be the one President Bush nominates."

Bush, asked at a news conference Thursday about filling Supreme Court slots, noted there's no vacancy, but added, "When I told the people on the campaign trail that I'll pick somebody who knows the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law ... I meant what I said."

Gonzales, a San Antonio native, has been at Bush's side for years, as his general counsel when Bush was governor of Texas, then as Texas secretary of state and now as Bush's White House counsel. Gonzales also served on the Texas Supreme Court from 1999 to 2000.

"He would be welcomed warmly in the Senate," said Don Stewart, spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "He is an outstanding jurist. The president thinks enough of him to make him his own lawyer."

Gonzales may face opposition, but it's uncertain how much. He has written controversial memos, including one that surfaced during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal that had said foreign detainees were not entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions. Human rights groups said that legal interpretation contributed to the climate of abuse.

"There are definitely serious questions and troubling concerns that would be raised," said Elliot Mincberg, vice president and legal director of People for the American Way. "We and others would look at the memos. They raise serious questions about his views on constitutional liberties and human rights."

Gonzales also has connections to scandal-ridden energy giant Enron. He is a former partner in the Houston law firm Vinson and Elkins, which represented Enron. He also received $6,500 in campaign contributions from the company when he ran for re-election to the Texas Supreme Court.

Gonzales did not respond to a request for an interview. It's unclear what effect such criticism might have on his nomination.

The son of migrant farm workers, Gonzales used to toil alongside his family, picking cotton. After a few years in the Air Force, he graduated from Rice University and went on to Harvard University Law School, getting his law degree in 1982.

"Judge Gonzalez would do an excellent job in any capacity," political consultant Ray Sullivan of Austin said. With speculation this week that Attorney General John Ashcroft might be on the way out, Austin noted that Gonzalez could also be considered for that job.

---

World Net Daily Poll Shows Opposition to Gonzales

World Net Daily | November 11 2004

 

Architect of Abu Ghraib Torture is Bush's Pick for Attorney General

Iraqi beaten to death -- it's not just a job, it's an adventure under torture advocate Alberto Mengele Gonzalez
 
Infowars.com
November 11, 2004
`Alberto Gonzalez, Architect of Torture

George W. Bush's pick for Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, is the White House attorney who advised the President and the Pentagon that Bush was above the law concerning torture. This sicko actually said that the President is not just above international law (the Geneva Convention), but that Bush is even above Federal law.

So now, the chief law enforcement officer in the country is going to be the individual who advised Ashcroft that torture was okay and came up with the enemy combatant designation to strip Americans of their rights.

Out of the frying pan into the central furnace of hell. Ashcroft was bad enough, but he was simply a willing puppet of individuals like Gonzalez and Bush. Everyone should contact Congress and tell them enough is enough. We don't want Josef Mengele Gonzalez as our Attorney General.

Here's some background info:

On June 13, 2004 the London Telegraph reported that Constitutional experts were shocked by Gonzalez's memo, which told Bush that the nature of the war on terror "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions"

On June 16, they also reported:

"A string of leaked government memos over the past few days has revealed that President George W Bush was advised by Justice Department officials and the White House lawyer, Alberto Gonzalez, that Geneva Conventions on torture did not apply to "unlawful combatants", captured during the war on terror."

Scroll down for more information on how Gonzalez put Bush above the law, basically declaring him a god-emperor.

Senate expected to OK Gonzalez as attorney general

The Washington Post , November 11, 2004
By Dan Eggen

WASHINGTON President Bush nominated White House counsel Alberto Gonzales as attorney general Wednesday, choosing his top lawyer and longtime friend to guide the war on terrorism and lead the federal government's largest law enforcement agency.

Confirmation by the Senate, considered likely, would make Gonzales, 49, the first Hispanic attorney general in U.S. history. It would place the Justice Department in the hands of a loyal Bush confidant who helped craft some of the administration's most controversial anti-terrorism strategies.

The move also means that departing Attorney General John Ashcroft, a darling of the conservative movement, would be replaced with a figure viewed with some suspicion by the Republican right. By choosing loyalty over ideology in the first major personnel decision after his reelection, Bush signaled a desire for calmer and quieter times at Justice, officials said.

"He always gives me his frank opinion," Bush said in announcing Gonzales' nomination. "He is a calm and steady voice in times of crisis. He has an unwavering principle of respect for the law."

Gonzales said the post requires "a special level of trust and integrity."

"The American people expect and deserve a Department of Justice guided by the rule of law, and there should be no question regarding the department's commitment to justice for every American," he said. "On this principle, there can be no compromise."

Democrats and Republicans predicted a relatively easy confirmation for Gonzales, who came to Washington after serving as a Bush aide and as a state supreme court justice in Texas. Last week's elections gave the GOP a 55-44 edge in the next Senate, which convenes in January. There is one Independent.

Democrats see Gonzales, the son of migrant farm workers, as a relative moderate. Republican conservatives though uncomfortable with Gonzales because of previous decisions related to abortion and other social issues were cheered that his appointment as attorney general would keep him, at least for now, from being nominated to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.

Tom Minnery, vice president for public policy at Colorado-based Focus on the Family, said Gonzales would be a problematic judicial nominee because he does not have "strong pro-life beliefs." But he said his group would support Gonzales' appointment as attorney general.

"Putting someone like that in such an independent role as a federal judge is a problem for us," Minnery said. "But as attorney general, the social issues are not as prominent as the law-enforcement issues."

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it was "encouraging that the president has chosen someone less polarizing."

"We will have to review his record very carefully, but I can tell you already he's a better candidate than John Ashcroft," Schumer said.

Viet Dinh, a former senior Justice official under Ashcroft who now teaches law at Georgetown University, said he expects Gonzales to "differ in tone but not in substance" from his predecessor.

"Al Gonzales does not have the strong public profile of John Ashcroft and the attendant political controversy," Dinh said. "I don't think the outside interest groups will have as easy a time trying to marginalize him as a radical or extremist attorney general."

Another Judiciary Committee member, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said it would be "very difficult" for Democrats to impede Gonzales' nomination in light of GOP electoral gains in the Senate and the defeat of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

"I just think this would be the wrong fight for them to pick," Cornyn said.

Nonetheless, some Democrats said Gonzales will face sharp questioning about his role in crafting administration anti-terrorism policies that have been overturned or scaled back by the courts. Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International urged Democrats to be tough on him.

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based group that represents families of some detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said Gonzales' legal opinions "opened the door and paved the way" for abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"He's right in the middle of where this administration went off the page of the law and into chaos," Ratner said. "They're promoting someone who was one of the legal architects of the abuse. It's just appalling."

In one January 2002 draft memo, Gonzales argued that the war on terrorism made the Geneva Convention's limitations on treatment of enemy prisoners "obsolete" and "renders quaint some of its provisions."

His office also played a role in an August 2002 memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel advising that torturing alleged Al-Qaeda terrorists in captivity abroad "may be justified" and that international laws against torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations" conducted in the U.S. war on terrorism.

Gonzales held a news briefing to distance himself from the memo, calling it "irrelevant and unnecessary" and "overbroad."

Conservatives put Bush above law

Los Angeles Times | June 17, 2004
By Robert Scheer


What a revelation to learn that the Justice Department lawyer who wrote the infamous memo in effect defending torture is now a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge. It tells you all you need to know about the sort of conservative to whom George W. Bush is turning in his at-tempt to pack the federal courts.

Conservatives once were identified with protecting the rights of the individual against the unbridled power of government, but this is not your grandfather's conservatism. The current brand running things in D.C. holds that the commander in chief is above all law and that the ends always justify the means. This has paved the way for the increasingly well-documented and systematic use of torture in an ad hoc gulag archipelago for those detained anywhere in the world under the overly broad rubric of the "war on terror."

Those still clinging to the hopeful notion that photographic evidence of beatings, dead detainees, sexual degradation and threats of electric shock were all the work of a few twisted reservists aren't reading the newspapers. News accounts are following the paper trail up the chain of command to a heated and lengthy debate inside the White House about how much cruelty constitutes torture.

On Sunday, The Washington Post published on its Web site an internal White House memo from Aug. 1, 2002, signed by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, which argued darkly that torturing al-Qaida captives "may be justified" and that international laws against torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations" conducted under President Bush. The memo then continued for 50 pages to make the case for the use of torture.

Was it as a reward for such bold legal thinking that only months later Bybee was appointed to one of the top judicial benches in the country? Perhaps he was anointed for his law journal articles bashing Roe v. Wade and legal protection for homosexuals, or for his innovative attack on the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which provides for the popular election of U.S. senators. But it's hard to shake the notion that his memo to Alberto Gonzales, counsel to the president, established Bybee's hard-line credentials for an administration that has no use for moderation in any form.

This president has turned his war on terrorism into an excuse for undermining due process and bypassing Congress. For Bybee and his ideologue cohorts, however, the American president is now more akin to a king, and legal or moral restraints are simply problems that can be overcome later, if anybody bothers to question the tactics: "Finally, even if an interrogation method might violate Section 2340A (of the U.S. Torture Convention passed in 1994), necessity or self-defense could provide justification that would eliminate any criminal liability."

In fact, though, this was an argument of last resort for Bybee, whose definition of torture "covers only extreme acts ... where the pain is physical, it must be of an intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure. ... Because the acts inflicting torture are extreme, there is (a) significant range of acts that, though they might constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, fail to rise to the level of torture."

Bybee's generous standard should bring comfort to the totalitarian governments that find the brutal treatment of prisoners a handy tool in retaining power or fighting wars. Even Saddam Hussein, who always faced the threat of assassination and terrorism from foreign and domestic rivals, can now offer in his defense Bybee's memo that his actions were justifiable, on the grounds of "necessity or self-defense."

When confronted by the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee with the content of Bybee's torture defense, Attorney General John Ashcroft responded that the memo did not guide the administration. Yet, the Bybee memo was clearly the basis for the working-group report on detainee interrogations presented to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld a year later. And if Bybee's work was rejected as reprehensible, why was he rewarded - with Ashcroft's deepest blessings - with a lifetime appointment on the judicial bench only one level below the Supreme Court?

Frighteningly, the Bybee memo is not some oddball exercise in moral relativism but instead provides the most coherent explanation of how this administration came to believe that to assure freedom and security at home and abroad, it should ape the tactics of brutal dictators.

Legal experts slam torture policy process

White House rebuffed memo saying Bush could be above law

San Francisco Chronicle | June 24, 2004
by James Sterngold

The White House took an unusual step by releasing a thick stack of documents to defend itself against charges it had authorized the abuse of war prisoners, but a number of experts said the most significant decision may have been the administration's disavowal of the memo contending the president can claim he is above the law on torture if he says he is defending the country.

The 2-year-old legal analysis said only the most egregious physical abuse constituted torture under the law and concluded that the president and the soldiers he commands were effectively exempt from any anti-torture treaties or criminal statutes.

The memo's fundamental position has turned into the one issue that experts from both sides of the political spectrum have condemned.

While the White House's efforts Tuesday were clearly aimed at quelling the mounting anger over reports of prisoner abuse, the repudiation of that lone memo -- one administration official called it irrelevant -- has enraged some legal experts and refocused attention on the unilateral methods President Bush has chosen to employ in the war on terror.

"What they have done is preposterous," said Eugene R. Fidell, an expert on military law and president of the National Institute of Military Justice, a Washington think tank. "Calling the memo irrelevant is a pretty lame way of getting out of this. But the reality is that the thinking here was the foundation stone of their policy.

"I can't remember a more unanimous chorus of lawyers from every part of the political spectrum agreeing on an issue."

The key 50-page memo was written Aug. 1, 2002, by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel. The criminal law, it stated, "does not apply to the president's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants pursuant to his commander-in- chief authority."

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel is a respected group that resolves important legal disputes within the federal government almost like a court. The group was headed by Jay Bybee, who is now a judge on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

On Tuesday, the White House disavowed the memo, and administration officials said it was being rewritten. Bush also insisted, "We do not condone torture."

Some experts expressed anger at the way the Bush administration abandoned the Justice Department lawyers who wrote the memo, which had been done at the White House's request. "Never in the history of the U.S. has an opinion issued by the Office of Legal Counsel been disavowed by the client, the White House, in that precipitous a fashion," said David Rivkin, a former attorney in the office now in private practice and a member of the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal group.

Rivkin said he opposed the memo's central argument that the president should not be constrained by the criminal laws against torture. "The memos are very aggressive" on the issue of presidential powers, he said. "I would probably be uncomfortable with the full flavor of it."

The memo, and a Pentagon legal analysis on torture written March 6, 2003, carefully parse the meaning of U.S. criminal laws as well as the U.N. Convention Against Torture, ratified by the United States in 1994, and they provide few inhibitions.

The memos argue that only techniques that cause excruciating and prolonged pain, and that are intended to cause pain that force detainees to produce intelligence, are prohibited. Some lawyers said that those arguments are not new.

"There was some glossing over the laws and some stretching, but it was within the realm of reason," said Allen Weiner, a professor at Stanford's Institute for International Studies and a State Department attorney from 1990 to 2001.

"Realistically, those parts of the memos are not novel, but other parts are shockingly novel," he added. "The constitutional analysis on the president's power was the most shocking thing. These are totally new powers. These are very bald-faced and categorical assertions. Federal criminal laws become inapplicable."

The U.N. Convention Against Torture says that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture."

Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, a retired Navy judge advocate general and now dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., said the interpretation of the laws on torture was not radical, and neither was a debate on the extent of the president's powers.

"The question of the president's constitutional authority goes back to the early days of the republic," said Hutson. "That is a perfectly legitimate subject to debate. But one of the offensive aspects of this to me is that they used that venerable and honorable issue, that people care greatly about, for a short-term, mean-spirited, ill-advised advantage.

"You have to ask if in the long run does this make sense, does it help the U.S.? From that standpoint this fails miserably."

Rivkin said that, at the least, the fact that the administration was asking legal experts to examine these issues demonstrates that the Bush administration is living up to its democratic obligations.

"Nobody's sweeping anything under the rug," Rivkin said.

Weiner said, though, that the idea that the president was claiming the authority to ignore certain laws or treaties could undermine U.S. ability to get allies to cooperate in the war on terror.

"The broader policy concern is that the U.S. is now on record as basically saying we're going to freely enter into international arrangements but we're going to ignore them when it suits us," said Weiner. "That's the real danger here. It encourages other countries to do the same thing.

"One of the hard lessons of Iraq has been that our power is not as great as we thought and we do need the international community."

In Vietnam, a Clear Line to Avoid

Washington Post | Monday, June 21, 2004
By John Stuart Blackton

The Justice Department has advised the White House that President Bush (and those who follow his orders) may contravene treaties, U.S. law and international law under the broad doctrine of "necessity."

This advice contrasts sharply with that of an earlier White House, under Lyndon Johnson, during the Vietnam War. In that war, the decision was made to employ the full powers of the commander in chief to buttress and reinforce the Geneva Conventions and the criminal sanctions under the U.S. Code that followed from these conventions. Attorney General John Ashcroft and others in the administration have suggested that the recent disclosures about abuses at Abu Ghraib prison are simply a reflection of the universal "hard side" of war. It was ever thus and will forever be is the implication. Yet the record of the U.S. military in Vietnam, not our most glorious military undertaking, suggests otherwise.

Far more attention was paid in Vietnam than in Iraq to ensuring an environment in which every American combatant understood the basic rules of the Geneva Conventions. These principles were part of universal military training, reinforced by the chain of command in the field and largely, although certainly not universally, adhered to by the troops.

The International Red Cross sought assurances in December 1964 from the U.S. and Vietnamese governments that their armed forces were abiding by the Geneva Conventions. These requests prompted a policy review that led the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam to appoint a joint U.S.-Vietnamese military committee in September 1965 to work out details on the application of the Geneva Conventions in Vietnam. Every draftee and volunteer was given, during basic training, mandatory instruction in the principles of the conventions. Soldiers were tested on that training, and the results were recorded in their personnel jackets. This training was repeated at successive stages, and all soldiers arriving in Vietnam received orientation in the Geneva Conventions during their initial processing.

Every soldier also received a plastic pocket card bearing the signature of our commander in chief, Lyndon Baines Johnson. It was headed "The Enemy in Your Hands" and summarized the conventions in simple, clear language. Item No. 3, "MISTREATMENT OF ANY CAPTIVE IS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE. EVERY SOLDIER IS PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ENEMY IN HIS HANDS," was followed by this unambiguous guidance: "It is both dishonorable and foolish to mistreat a captive. It is also a punishable offense. Not even a beaten enemy will surrender if he knows his captors will torture or kill him. He will resist and make his capture more costly. Fair treatment of captives encourages the enemy to surrender."

A program of instruction for all U.S. and Vietnamese military units was established in Vietnam to teach the basic rules for handling prisoners. Regulations were promulgated instructing U.S. units and advisers to identify and keep records of all captives turned over to the Vietnamese, including specifying to whom the captives were transferred.

The signed order from President Johnson in our pockets was a critical element of accountability and personal responsibility. In the event that any of us might be instructed to treat prisoners in an inhumane manner, we were in a position to recognize and refuse an unlawful order that contravened a signed direct order from the president.

There were, of course, American abuses in the handling of prisoners in Vietnam, as there were in World War II and all other wars. But U.S. soldiers who violated the policy on torture and prisoner abuse in Vietnam knew precisely where the lines were drawn, and they knew that they could not hide behind either an ambiguous Army policy or the defense that they were "just following orders." Serious departures from policy were far more prevalent in the undeclared and covert theaters of the Indochina war (Laos and Cambodia), where accountability was reduced, the lines of military authority often obscure, and external oversight from the legislative branch and from the press nonexistent.

The Defense Department has established a military environment in Iraq that is more reminiscent of those covert wars than of the overt war in Vietnam. The White House legal counsel's written opinion that the Geneva Conventions are now "obsolete" and have been rendered "quaint" diminishes accountability and personal responsibility for our soldiers in Iraq. The suggestion that the doctrine of "necessity" has broad application to our military interrogation of prisoners in Iraq is worrisome.

The Indochina war was not the U.S. Army's finest hour, but the occupation of Iraq may, in at least some respects, be remembered as one of its darkest.

Flashback:

Interrogation abuses were 'approved at highest levels'

Guantanamo Suicides Followed Arrival Of New General

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