Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Memo

You have to read this article from this week's New Yorker. It's more than a profile about Alberto Mora, who just left his job as general counsel for the U.S. Navy. The article is a profile in courage of a man who came to his job as a conservative, a Reagan Republican, yet who instantly had the correct reaction when he learned of torture at Guantanamo. He did everything he could to stop it, challenging his boss and pushing his point so hard that the bosses who run the Defense Department just cut him out, all the while lying to his face.

There are three important things that this article confirms. First, it shows us that it's possible to find someone with radically different political views who is yet utterly committed to principle and the rule of law. People like that are scarce in the Bush Administration, and they're clearly trying to squeeze them out, but they're still there.

Second, as the actual memo makes clear, no matter what the Administration says, and no matter what games they play about adopting policies, or crossing their fingers when they sign legislation, the United States has a legal obligation to follow the provisions of international law that prohibit torture, and that the government actors who are ordering and condoning it are potentially liable criminally.

Third, there is no question about aberrant conduct by rogue elements in the armed forces. Torture is the policy of the United States government, and that policy has been set in the Defense Department and the White House. This is simply intolerable.

The New Yorker, and Jane Mayer, are to be commended for the courage to publis this article.


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