Avoiding the Torture Ban

| Fri Mar. 3, 2006 5:15 PM EST

Good to see that the Justice Department is taking Congress' ban on torture seriously:

In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."

...."Unfortunately, I think the government's right; it's a correct reading of the law," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The law says you can't torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can't enforce that law in the courts."Oh, it's one of those unenforceable torture bans. Well why didn't anyone say so? If anyone knows any Kafka references that aren't stale and overused yet, let us know, we could use a fresh supply. Meanwhile, Kevin Drum's probably right to blame John McCain here (although the Bush administration is obviously the main problem here). Whether McCain intended all of this to happen or not, it's pretty clear that when he agreed to the Graham amendment in the same anti-torture bill, which stripped Guantanamo detainees of their right to challenge their detention in federal court, he pretty much did exactly what the White House wanted him to do. As Kevin says: "[McCain]'s certainly mastered the art of sounding reasonable, but it's only an inch deep. Underneath, he's just a standard issue right wing politician."

It might be worse than "standard issue." Digby notes that McCain is currently wildly popular around the country, among both Republicans and Democrats. That's going to be something to watch in the coming years, especially if he runs for president in 2008. All things considered, McCain is even more radical than Bush, especially on foreign policy—among other things, he's talked about ramping up the number of troops in Iraq and going after Iran with military force. And apart from a somewhat sensible approach to the environment—which will no doubt get scuttled once those "bundled" industry donations start pouring in, come 2007—he's not "liberal" in any sense of the word.