Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Is is

Festus finally had his definitive "is is" moment. Recall Clinton defending his parsing of the term "sexual relations" by stating something like, "well, that depends on what your definition of is, is." I'm sure it made sense to him at the time, but it doesn't read well now.

Probably the most outraged I've been lately at Festus's total lack of competence and honesty was in response to a news conference from a South America's conference (yet another debacle) where he at the same time defended our use of torture while flatly stating we weren't doing it anyway. Clearly an "is is" moment if I've ever seen one.

Here's what Festus said:
"We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice," Bush said at a news conference with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos. "We are gathering information about where the terrorists might be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do ... to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law. We do not torture.

And, therefore, we're working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible -- more possible to do our job. There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans, and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet, we'll aggressively pursue them. But we will do so under the law. And that's why you're seeing members of my administration go and brief the Congress. We want to work together in this matter. We -- all of us have an obligation, and it's a solemn obligation and a solemn responsibility. And I'm confident that when people see the facts, that they'll recognize that we've -- they've got more work to do, and that we must protect ourselves in a way that is lawful.""

Got all that. The familiar themes of "an enemy that lurks" and "wants to hurt America" and "when people see the facts" suggest that Festus wants to say the means are justified by the results but can't. Mind you, I don't really care how Al Quaeda captives are treated, but the whole point of agreeing to humane treatment of prisoners of war is that we don't want our soldiers tortured.

Here's an interesting response
:"If that's the case, why threaten to veto a law that would simply codify what Bush alleges is already the current policy? If 'we do not torture,' how to account for the hundreds and hundreds of cases of abuse and torture by U.S. troops, documented by the government itself? If 'we do not torture,' why the memos that expanded exponentially the lee-way given to the military to abuse detainees in order to get intelligence? The president's only defense against being a liar is that he is defining 'torture' in such a way that no other reasonable person on the planet, apart from Bush's own torture apologists (and they are now down to one who will say so publicly), would agree. The press must now ask the president: does he regard the repeated, forcible near-drowning of detainees to be torture? Does he believe that tying naked detainees up and leaving them outside all night to die of hypothermia is 'torture'? Does he believe that beating the legs of a detainee until they are pulp and he dies is torture? Does he believe that beating detainees till they die is torture? Does he believe that using someone's religious faith against them in interrogations is 'cruel, inhumane and degrading' treatment and thereby illegal? What is his definition of torture?"