When it comes to torture, anyway.
We all remember this story from last fall, about Senator Jeff Sessions’s courageous stand in favor of torture. He was one of only eight senators willing to give our fearless leader the worthless tools he needs to humilate our country and alienate our friends.
Setting up a possible veto showdown with the White House, the Senate voted overwhelmingly for an amendment to a Pentagon spending bill that sets standards for the treatment of prisoners in U.S. military custody.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, would require American troops to follow interrogation standards set in the Army Field Manual and bar “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” of prisoners in U.S. custody.
On Wednesday night, senators voted 90-9 to include the provision to the $440 billion Defense Department spending bill now wending its way through Congress. . . .
McCain said an officer in the 82nd Airborne Division, Capt. Ian Fishback, urged his office to push for clear guidelines for the treatment of prisoners after unsuccessfully attempting to get answers from his superiors for 17 months.
In a letter to McCain, published last week in The Washington Post, Fishback stated that he and troops under his command witnessed “death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment” of prisoners in both Afghanistan and Iraq. . . .
“The enemy we fight has no respect for human life or human rights. They don’t deserve our sympathy,” [McCain] said. “But this isn’t about who they are. This is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies.”
He bristled at remarks by his Republican colleague, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, questioning Fishback’s account. Sessions also called it “sort of odd” that Fishback refused to disclose the names of sergeants in his unit who reported similar conduct.
“Captain Fishback is a noble, brave young American,” McCain said. “He does not deserve to be disparaged on the floor of this Senate by any senator, and the senator from Alabama owes him an abject and deep apology.”
Sessions said the McCain amendment was unnecessary, since those responsible for the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib “are being held to account.” He said he did not believe he questioned Fishback’s integrity, and he said senators who questioned whether abuses were sanctioned by top officers or the Pentagon should consider an apology.
“To suggest to the world that we have as systemic pattern of abuse in the military is not true,” he said.
If, as Sessions said then, we do not torture, than there is no reason today to do as W asks and water down our treaty obligations prohibiting torture, right? It does not happen, so we are in full compliance with the treaty. Hence, no need to change the treaty.
So you’d think, until you read the news yesterday:
A Senate committee, in a bipartisan rebuff to President George W. Bush, approved military tribunal legislation that would give more legal protection to suspected terrorists than the administration wants.
Four of the 13 Republicans on the panel joined the 11 Democrats to pass their version of the measure, rejecting Bush’s proposal to bar defendants from seeing classified evidence prosecutors may want to use in court. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed the Senate approach, warning that the Bush administration is risking the safety of U.S. troops and worldwide opinion by permitting harsh treatment of detainees. . . .
Today’s Armed Services Committee vote would let suspected terrorists see evidence used against them and would bar statements obtained through torture or inhumane treatment. It also would authorize military judges to fashion declassified summaries of evidence and to dismiss charges if the prosecutors don’t consent to the disclosures.
“We are not going to win the war by killing every terrorist with a bomb or a bullet,” South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told reporters before the committee met. “You win the war by persuading those people in the Mideast to reject terrorism.”
The panel’s vote was 15 to 9, with all 11 Democrats joined by four Republicans in defying the president. The four Senators were John W. Warner of Virginia, the chairman, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan E. Collins of Maine.
Yes sir, Jeff Sessions, continuing to fight for our right to torture.
To be fair, last time the only vote was ya or nay on prohibiting torture. This time it was ya or nay on prohibiting torture and on prohibiting kangaroo courts. So while Sessions’s previous nay vote clearly says yes to torture, his opposition this time could be just to fair courts.
And of course, I am not really arguing for one side or the other here, just pointing out that Sessions supports torture and probably opposes fair trials. You and your conscience can make of that what you will.