Morning Report 11/15/05Confining Their Remarks


Wary of Cheney, senators circle Guantánamo in a holding pattern

Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy


Showing restraint: Back in January 2002, Lance Cpl. Robert Devlin showed off the cuffs used for transporting “detainees” from Asia to Guantánamo Bay’s Camp X-Ray.

This is what I call a real compromise: We’ll strip our “detainees” of only some of their humanity. In exchange, we’ll agree to strip them of only some of their rights.

In a sense, that’s what the Senate decided to do yesterday. The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Weisman described the captivating drama in more sophisticated terms this morning:

A bipartisan group of senators reached a compromise yesterday that would dramatically alter U.S. policy for treating captured terrorist suspects by granting them a final recourse to the federal courts but stripping them of some key legal rights.

The compromise links legislation written by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), which would deny detainees broad access to federal courts, with a new measure authored by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) that would grant detainees the right to appeal the verdict of a military tribunal to a federal appeals court. The deal will come to a vote today, and the authors say they are confident it will pass.

As Weisman notes, the senators think they have another deal cooking with this somewhat unholy compromise:

Graham and Levin indicated they would then demand that House and Senate negotiators link their measure with the effort by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to clearly ban torture and abuse of terrorism suspects being held in U.S. facilities.

That depends, however, on whether Dick Cheney, America’s tinhorn Torquemada, decides to tighten his own torque wrench on the Constitution. More from Weisman’s story:

Vice President Cheney, a major architect of the U.S. anti-terrorism effort, is strongly opposed to any compromise that includes the McCain provision, the senators said. Cheney personally lobbied against McCain’s measure to ban abuse and torture, contending that its language was too broad and would prohibit the use of interrogation methods necessary to secure vital national security information. After the Senate approved the measure as part of a defense spending bill, he pushed to exempt the CIA from its provisions.

Now Cheney has turned to House Republican leaders to hold McCain’s language back.

Well, you have to take issue with Weisman’s description of the vise president as “a major architect of the U.S. anti-terrorism effort.” By arguing in favor of torture, Cheney has forfeited any claim to being involved in anti-terrorism.

No doubt, though, that Cheney may think of himself as the Howard Roark of what is truly America’s Zero Decade. As Arrol Gellner describes Ayn Rand‘s protagonist:

The Roark character, a thinly disguised version of Frank Lloyd Wright, was a mouthpiece for Rand’s belief that arrogance and egocentrism are integral components of genius.

Arrogance? Yes. Egocentrism? Yes. Genius? No. Cheney and I get similar scores on that little test. Only I’m less dangerous to the Constitution than he is.

Cheney even fails the ungrammatical but otherwise sound little test devised by General Geoffrey Miller, the former Colonel Klink of Guantánamo’s Camp X-Ray.

On July 11, 2003, just as the abuse of “detainees” was beginning, Miller wrote this in his “Message from the Top” column for the Joint Task Force Guantánamo publication The Wire:

“The true test of great leaders and great units are they do what is right when no one is looking.”

Come to think of it, Miller, who quietly passed along his interrogation tips to the jailers at Abu Ghraib, flunked his own test.