Wednesday, September 21, 2005

John McCain's Anti-Torture Amendments

Senator John McCain attached three amendments to a $42 billion Pentagon authorization bill. Nat Hentoff:
Affirming American values, Mr. McCain's first amendment would have established "the Army Field Manual as the standard for interrogation of all detainees held in the Department of Defense (DOD) custody." He noted that a new edition of the Army manual is due out soon, but his amendment would require that congressional defense committees be informed 30 days before any revisions.
In view of the bypassing of the Army Field Manual in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan, resulting in the abuses of prisoners, "the revisions would have to be consistent with (our) laws and treaty obligations."
Tellingly, Mr. McCain added, "Had the manual been followed across the board, we could have avoided the prisoner abuse scandal." Mr. McCain's position is hardly radical, and, in fact, is strongly supported by several high-ranking former military officers and some of the military prosecutors enmeshed in the administration's version of "military commissions," that evade due process, at Guantanamo Bay.
Another McCain amendment, he told his colleagues, would have required that "each individual detained in a DOD facility who is a national of a foreign country be registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross. That's it. Just registered. This will help us eliminate the problem of ghost detainees we faced in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, in which other government agencies held unregistered detainees in a facility operated by our military. I believe this provision to be just basic common sense, and I can hardly see how anyone could object, though I don't doubt the sensitivity of my colleagues."
The White House did object to the amendments, and instructed Senate Majority leader Bill Frist to pull the whole Pentagon spending bill off the Senate floor lest the Senate pass the amendments with the bills.
A third amendment, which, like the others, was joined by RepublicanSens.John Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, himself a former military lawyer, would have prohibited the "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of anyone in American custody" -- the very language of the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which this country has ratified. Obviously, that McCain amendment would not have been necessary if there wasn't a pattern of American detainees being treated in this way.
The bill will be going back to the Senate floor with the amendments still attached.
Will Mr. Bush veto that bill if it is passed with the amendments? Or will he take the democratic American alternative, and let a Senate vote on the McCain amendments stand if they're adopted? Or will he try again to have the entire bill pulled off the floor?