Friday, December 17, 2004

All Enemies Foreign and Domestic 

I get nervous any time I hear of military people moving into political turf. This time I think these guys are doing their duty, to the Constitution to which they swore an oath:

(via NYT)
Several former high-ranking military lawyers say they are discussing ways to oppose President Bush's nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales to be attorney general, asserting that Mr. Gonzales's supervision of legal memorandums that appeared to sanction harsh treatment of detainees, even torture, showed unsound legal judgment.

Hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination are expected to begin next month. While Mr. Gonzales is expected to be confirmed, objections from former generals and admirals would be a setback and an embarrassment for him and the White House.

Mr. Gonzales, as White House counsel, oversaw the drafting of several confidential legal memorandums that critics said sanctioned the torture of terrorism suspects in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and opened the door to abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

A memorandum prepared under Mr. Gonzales's supervision by a legal task force concluded that Mr. Bush was not bound either by an international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal antitorture law because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique needed to protect the nation.

The memorandum also said that executive branch officials, including those in the military, could be immune from domestic and international prohibitions against torture for a variety of reasons, including a belief by interrogators that they were acting on orders from superiors "except where the conduct goes so far as to be patently unlawful." Another memorandum said the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the conflict in Afghanistan.

Mr. Hutson, who is dean and president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., said that Mr. Gonzales "was not thinking about the impact of his behavior on U.S. troops in this war and others to come."

"He was not thinking about the United States' history in abiding by international law, especially in the wartime context," he said. "For that reason, some of us think he is a poor choice to be attorney general."

Brig. Gen. James Cullen, retired from the Army, said on Wednesday that he believed that in supervising the memorandums, Mr. Gonzales had purposely ignored the advice of lawyers whose views did not accord with the conclusions he sought, which was that there was some legal justification for illegal behavior.

The memorandums produced largely by lawyers in the Justice Department and other government agencies created great bitterness at the time among military lawyers, who said they were not consulted.

Quite a bit snipped here, but I didn't see this get much play in either the over- or underground media* so thought I would post it.

*Looking for new, short terms for the "mainstream media" and the news-oriented blogosphere. Suggestions welcome.

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