Thursday, October 06, 2005

McCain Amendment: Where's The Beef?

The US Senate passed an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that is intended to address the issue of prisoner abuse as alleged in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. The author of the amendment was Senator John McCain (R-AZ). ( MCCAIN STATEMENT ON DETAINEE AMENDMENTS). What is missing from the amendment is any substance that would actually address the problems cited.

The amendment contains two general components. First, it would require changes to the Army Field Manual to provide universal guidelines for the interrogation of prisoners in US custody. Such guidelines already exist, however, and were effectively moot in the Iraqi prison scandals largely because the prisons were controlled by the DIA, CIA, and other agencies and were not under the direct control of the US military. Yes, that’s a technicality and it may sound like I’m splitting hairs, but that’s not my intention at all. Control of the prisons was not in the direct hands of the military for the specific purpose of providing greater latitude with respect to prisoner interrogations. Senator McCain’s amendment does not address that issue.

The second component does nothing more than attach a statement to the appropriations bill asserting that the US policy is to abide by treaties that were already signed and ratified by the Senate. It’s a very flowery statement, however it carries no more legal weight than the treaties we have already signed. At the heart of the matter is a prohibition against cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, but no clear definition is provided for such treatment. Without clear definitions, it remains subjective and is effectively unenforceable.

This amendment appears to be nothing more than political grandstanding. Let me know when there’s something of substance to discuss. I don’t see it in this legislation.


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