As I'm sure you know, the House sided with Senator John McCain on a measure that would "ban torture and limit interrogation techniques" in U.S. detention facilities. The vote, 308 to 122, is a baby step toward creating a more uniform standard by which torture can be measured. But how many baby steps will it take? From the WaPo:
The vote sends a clear signal to the Bush administration that both chambers of Congress support the anti-torture legislation and want the government to adopt guidelines that aim to prevent damage to the U.S. image abroad. The White House has been aggressively pushing to create exceptions for CIA operatives and to water down McCain's language to keep it from limiting interrogators' options. But it appears that the administration and House Republican leaders lost some leverage yesterday.
Aside from our tarnished reputation abroad, many representatives believe - despite what Dick Cheney might believe - that extreme interrogation tactics lead to misleading information (hmm, that never happens, right?) because, as Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.) says, a detainee will just tell you "what he thinks you want to hear" only to stop the pain.
Exactly. I'm not saying that the provenance of ALL of the bad WMD intelligence stemmed from our current, highly disputed torture practices, but I'm sure it had at least some involvement, when looked at from the aggregate. On Wednesday, Bush even accepted responsibility for listening to this faulty intelligence.
This small victory in the House - while characterized as mostly symbolic - sends a message to the President that more and more people are not willing to support government-sanctioned torture.
But, as is the case with our nation's political realm, the Army's newly released and classified set of interrogation methods will undoubtedly complicate things. While the it states that soldiers must adhere to the Geneva Convention, this 10-page addendum to the Army field manual gives soldiers EXACTLY what they need to know - in terms of what they can do and what they can't do in any given situation - in order to avoid committing an illegal interrogation.
The criticism has already begun:
Some military officials said the new guidelines could give the impression that the Army was pushing the limits on legal interrogation at the very moment when Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, is involved in intense three-way negotiations with the House and the Bush administration to prohibit the cruel treatment of prisoners.
In a high-level meeting at the Pentagon on Tuesday, some Army and other Pentagon officials raised concerns that Mr. McCain would be furious at what could appear to be a back-door effort to circumvent his intentions.
"This is a stick in McCain's eye," one official said. "It goes right up to the edge. He's not going to be comfortable with this."
Since Bush still continues on with his "strategy" of continued occupation of Iraq, this nation really needs to put some stronger definitions around what are illegal and illegal forms of torture. We as a nation cannot sustain this war for much longer, and when all is said and done, our reputation in the international arena will look just like one of the many buildings in Iraq decimated by our bombs.
UPDATE: The White House met with McCain on Thursday, 12/15, saying that the torture ban was a "done deal." Of course, more details need to be worked out and a final draft needs to be written before we can see the full extent of the torture ban, and who has had to compromise. The CNN article doesn't make any mention of the Army field manual and the implications it has on legal/illegal interrogations. Stay tuned ...
RE-UPDATE: Just for kicks, I'm including Mark Morford's take on the torture issue here for your delectation.