The Detainee Documents

· long story short

The statements on detainee treatment released by the Bush administration yesterday carefully keep all the options of torture and Geneva violations open.
From today’s NYT (All italics are mine.) “[A] senior Justice Department official said the document [the already infamous 8/02 Justice Department memo] was ‘overbroad and irrelevant’ and was unnecessary because no one in the administration had ever asked for the legal authority to torture captives.”
That does not repudiate the memo’s sanctioning of torture; it merely puts it on hold. When someone does “ask for the legal authority to torture captives,” the document would no longer be “overbroad and irrelevant,” nor unnecessary.
Similarly, in a memo on 2/7/02, regarding violation of Geneva conventions, Bush defies Geneva twice:
First, he explicitly keeps his authority to violate Geneva in reserve. “I accept the legal conclusion … that I have the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the United States and Afghanistan, but I decline to exercise that authority at this time…”
Second, in the very same memo, he immediately goes ahead and does “exercise that authority at this time.” (NYT again) “A Feb. 7, 2002, memo from Bush to top members of his administration said al Qaeda and Taliban detainees were to be ‘treated humanely and to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles’ of the Geneva Convention.”
So what happens when treating detainees in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Convention is not “consistent with military necessity”? In what manner should we treat detainees then? What about when we have to interrogate them about potential threats? What about when there’s a war on?
Since Bush authorizes the Geneva principles only “to the extent appropriate,” etc., to betray military necessity and endanger Americans by adhering to them in any way beyond that would violate the direct orders of the commander-in-chief.