Magazine article The American Conservative

Tortured Logic

Magazine article The American Conservative

Tortured Logic

Article excerpt


Last week's East Room speech was a tale of two Bushes: the stalwart defender of the rule of law and the War President who claims privilege to suspend it.

The headline didn't surprise-suspected terrorists have been held in secret prisons outside the United States. Bush argued the necessity of this prerogative, complete with case studies. We would be less safe had he not ... done what he's no longer doing.

But in a dizzying turn, prisoners for whom he authorized indefinite, often anonymous, detention without counsel or charges, will now "be presumed innocent."

Then he was back. Steel-spined again, Bush said of the detainee interrogations, "I cannot describe the specific methods used. ... But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe and lawful and necessary."

Again a twist: "The United States does not torture. It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorized it-and I will not authorize it."

Unfortunately, this was more likely one of those "depends what the meaning of 'is' is" moments than a reversion to the rule of law. Recall that Bush DOJ memo ruling that pain "must be equivalent in intensity to ... serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death" to qualify as torture. …

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