Friday, January 07, 2005

Ashcroft's sucessor

I must confess I was thrilled when John Ashcroft's resignation from the post of Attorney-General was announced. Unfortunately, Alberto Gonzales doesn't seem to be much better. The New York Times has a few editorials on the subject.
The Associated Press headline that came over the wire yesterday said it all: "Gonzales Will Follow Non-Torture Policies."

You know how bad the situation is when the president's choice for attorney general has to formally pledge not to support torture anymore.
Unfortunately, that seems to be one of the few direct answers he gave; the rest of his Senate hearing was marked by evasion. This Post editorial describes it further.
At the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on his nomination to be attorney general, Mr. Gonzales repeatedly was offered the chance to repudiate a legal judgment that the president is empowered to order torture in violation of U.S. law and immunize torturers from punishment. He declined to do so. He was invited to reject a 2002 ruling made under his direction that the infliction of pain short of serious physical injury, organ failure or death did not constitute torture. He answered: "I don't have a disagreement with the conclusions then reached." Nor did he condemn torture techniques, such as simulated drowning, that were discussed and approved during meetings in his office. "It is not my job," he said, to decide if they were proper.

Also, he claimed to have forgotten his role in the policy on the treatment of prisoners. How can one forget something like that? This is the man who believes "Cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment of prisoners is not necessarily torture." In a Jan. 25, 2002, memo to Bush, Gonzales said the new war on terror "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners."
This says it all: In response to the question of whether US personnel could legally engage in torture under any circumstances, , Gonzales didn't give an unequivocal "No." Instead, he said, "I don't believe so, but I'd want to get back to you on that."

(Retired) General Wesley Clark had it right in this Hardball interview. "How", he asks, "can the American people have confidence in a man like Gonzales after what he's written for the President of the United States?"

There's no reason to hope he won't be confirmed by the Senate, so there's probably no point my complaining about it. I had hoped the president would select as Attorney General a man known for his integrity, someone who would uphold the law regardless of inconvenience to the adminstration. Instead, we get a man with 'an inspiring life story', a man whose most positive quality is loyalty to the President.

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