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Hanging Our Soldiers Out to Dry

I saw an excerpt (via Andrew Sullivan) of President Bush's press conference from earlier this week, and it has been bothering me mightily ever since. Here's a question by David Gregory and the relevant section of his subsequent exchange with the President:

Q Mr. President, critics of your proposed bill on interrogation rules say there's another important test -- these critics include John McCain, who you've mentioned several times this morning -- and that test is this: If a CIA officer, paramilitary or special operations soldier from the United States were captured in Iran or North Korea, and they were roughed up, and those governments said, well, they were interrogated in accordance with our interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, and then they were put on trial and they were convicted based on secret evidence that they were not able to see, how would you react to that, as Commander-in-Chief?

THE PRESIDENT: David, my reaction is, is that if the nations such as those you named, adopted the standards within the Detainee Detention Act, the world would be better. That's my reaction. We're trying to clarify law. We're trying to set high standards, not ambiguous standards...

Q Sir, with respect, if other countries interpret the Geneva Conventions as they see fit -- as they see fit -- you're saying that you'd be okay with that?

THE PRESIDENT: I am saying that I would hope that they would adopt the same standards we adopt; and that by clarifying Article III, we make it stronger, we make it clearer, we make it definite.

Let me see if I can't rewrite and expand on this exchange to be clearer and more explicit while preserving the facts:

Q Mr. President, if a CIA officer, paramilitary or special operations soldier from the United States were captured in Iran or North Korea, and they were subjected to procedures some people would consider to be torture, such as waterboarding, and those governments said, well, they were interrogated in accordance with our interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, and then they were put on trial and they were convicted based on secret evidence that they were not able to see, as well as on evidence obtained using waterboarding and other similar techniques, and if based on this evidence, and in accordance with the laws of the country in question, they were subsequently executed, how would you react to that, as Commander-in-Chief?

THE PRESIDENT: David, my reaction is, is that if the nations such as those you named, adopted the standards within the Detainee Detention Act, the world would be better. I would hope that they would adopt the same standards we adopt.

Can you even begin to imagine the uproar if a Democratic president expressed approval of the use of torture, secret evidence, evidence derived from torture, and execution based on such evidence by any other country against US personnel? Republicans would be outraged -- and rightly so. And I'm outraged by this. The president who has fought harder than any other against the right of any other nation to try US soldiers is now willing to hang them out to dry in the Iranian and North Korean equivalents of Camp X-Ray in order to preserve his own desire for state-sanctioned torture and military kangaroo courts. It's astonishing.

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