Bipartisanship

by Ted on March 16, 2005

Rep. Edward Markey has offered a bill (note: .pdf file) to stop extraordinary rendition. Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings makes the basic case quite ably:

Extraordinary rendition is a loathsome practice. If we have grounds to think that someone is a terrorist, we ought to charge that person and try him or her in a court of law. If we do not have enough evidence to bring charges, our response should be to try to develop some, not to ship that person off to another country to be tortured. This is completely inconsistent with our respect for the rule of law, and with our claim to basic decency. It is unworthy of our country, and it should be banned.

Representative Markey’s bill has 52 co-sponsors. 51 are Democrats, and 1 is independent.

I’m not an idiot. I know that this bill will never pass in this Congress. But I’d like to see at least one Republican co-sponsor for this bill.

I’m going to ask that readers politely contact Connecticut moderate Republican Christopher Shays, who might be open to persuasion. His phone number in DC is 202-225-5541. In Bridgeport, CT, it’s 203-579-5870. He can be emailed from this page. My letter, which you can adapt or just use, is under the fold. Thank you in advance.

Representative Shays:

I am writing to try to persuade you to co-sponsor H.R.952, Rep. Edward Markey’s effort to ban the practice of “extraordinary rendition”. As you may know, this is the practice of extraditing suspected terrorists to foreign countries, and placing them in the custody of jailers that we have reason to believe will torture them.

The bill currently has no Republican co-sponsors. I strongly believe that opposition to torture ought to be a bipartisan value. Torture is clearly inconsistent with principles popular among Republicans, principles of rule of law, international human rights, and Christian compassion. Conservative Catholic Mark Shea recently wrote that torture was “intrinsically evil” and could not be supported. Ronald Reagan inspired a generation with his vision of America as “a shining city on a hill.” Surely such a city wouldn’t condone the torture of human beings. Surely a country that would condone torture is less likely to inspire a new wave of democracy in the Middle East.

There is no inconsistency between strong defense and opposition to torture. The military leadership is consistently resisting calls for the torture of prisoners. Relying on the good word of Syrian torturers for our military intelligence seems utterly insane.

Please show leadership in the Republican caucus and co-sponsor H.R.952.

Sincerely,

Edward Barlow
(etc.)

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Crooked Timber » » Letter from a town hall
04.11.05 at 11:53 am

{ 14 comments }

1

Katherine 03.16.05 at 12:24 pm

I really doubt it will pass, but you have to look at it the right way. There are bills, for worthy sorts of causes, that go nowhere for years. But their supporters keep plugging away at them, gradually gathering cosponsors, and eventually something happens. And when it actually comes to a vote, enough Republicans are embarrassed to vote no that it passes.
That’s the best case scenario for Markey’s bill–and it does have twice as many cosponsors now as it did last fall.
I think it would have to pass the Senate before it even had a shot in the House, and I don’t see either happening in the next 4 years. But it might. There is a really glaring, embarrassing contradiction between claiming to spread freedom and peace to the Muslim and that our “values and interests are now one”, and sending suspects to be tortured in Egypt and Syria. If that contradiction could be highlighted, the President might be embarrassed into not vetoing this bill.
And even if it doesn’t, it still might accomplish something. When there are news reports on this, the CIA planes tend to slow down or stop. Markey’s bill is a way of getting news reports, and making them nervous. That in itself is something.
It’s not only the fights you win that have an effect.

2

Katherine 03.16.05 at 1:00 pm

Press conference today:

“Q Mr. President, can you explain why you’ve approved of and expanded the practice of what’s called rendition, of transferring individuals out of U.S. custody to countries where human rights groups and your own State Department say torture is common for people under custody?
THE PRESIDENT: The post-9/11 world, the United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack. That was the charge we have been given. And one way to do so is to arrest people and send them back to their country of origin with the promise that they won’t be tortured. That’s the promise we receive. This country does not believe in torture. We do believe in protecting ourselves. We don’t believe in torture. And –
Q As Commander-in-Chief –
THE PRESIDENT: Sorry, what — make Roberts feel terrible.
Q That’s all right.
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, you shouldn’t make –
Q It doesn’t bother me at all. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Elisabeth.
Q As Commander-in-Chief, what is it that Uzbekistan can do in interrogating an individual that the United States can’t?
THE PRESIDENT: We seek assurances that nobody will be tortured when we render a person back to their home country.”

There is a face saving option for Bush. He can claim that we believed Egypt’s and Syria’s and Uzbekistan’s assurances in good faith, but when to our shock and chagrin 80-100% of prisoners ended up getting tortured anyway, we realized that their word wasn’t enough.

3

Nell Lancaster 03.16.05 at 1:30 pm

Ted, nice letter, and nice idea. I’m compelled to note that House members are far more receptive to messages from their own constituents than to those from out-of-district (much less out of state). So anyone reading along who’s represented by a Republican, at a minimum send your letter to that member, regardless of how likely you consider their cosponsorship to be, before getting in touch with Rep. Shays.

4

Ginger Yellow 03.16.05 at 1:42 pm

That’s almost as weaselly as the US’s adoption of the rendition part of the torture convention, which states “That the United States understands the phrase, “where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture,” as used in Article 3 of the Convention, to mean “if it is more likely than not that he would be tortured.”
Even so, and taking Bush’s comments at face value, it all rather falls apart when you bring Maher Arar into the equation.

5

luci phyrr 03.16.05 at 3:09 pm

“But I’d like to see at least one Republican co-sponsor for this bill.”
Why? In a “I call on thee to denounce this” kind of way? I guess that might be good for trying to make them take a public stance, but…
I’m cool with just letting the Republicans be the Party of Torture. Too many (white men and enough white women) like kickin ass and voting Republican. Someday, someone else will get a chance. And we should remember, for a very long time, what the bastards stood for.

6

hilzoy 03.16.05 at 4:10 pm

I want to see a Republican co-sponsor because I do not want torture to be a partisan issue. I really don’t.
Thanks, Ted.

7

luckyjack 03.16.05 at 4:36 pm

Why don’t you want torture to be a partisan issue? I’m completely baffled by that statement. Fortunately, as it stands, it IS a partisan issue and I fail to see the advantage in providing political cover to this loathsome un-American gang of international criminals that calls itself the Republican Party. One (or two or three) Republican co-sponsors will do nothing to stop the Republican policy of torture, “ghost” detainees, and illegal confinement in our global gulag archipelago. What the partisan nature of the debate does do, however, is reveal the ugly face of both the party and its millions of supporters around the country. It did not gladden me to see Sen. Graham speaking sanely about the issue during the Abu Ghraib hearings. To the contrary, I hoped for more from Sen Inhofe. Let the lines be clearly and brightly drawn for he is the true face of the Republican Party. These people are traitors to the Constitution; indeed, many are descended from traitors whether biologically, ideologically or both. Progressives and liberals (or whatever) don’t need to be in the business of offering the least bit of political cover to these people. We need to be in the business of grinding them into dust.

8

Uncle Kvetch 03.16.05 at 4:46 pm

Progressives and liberals (or whatever) don’t need to be in the business of offering the least bit of political cover to these people. We need to be in the business of grinding them into dust.

Well said. I heartily concur.

9

Doug 03.16.05 at 4:52 pm

And then there’s Wolfowitz at the World Bank…

10

Katherine 03.16.05 at 5:13 pm

We want it outlawed, they control the House, Senate and the Presidency, we need some Republican support to get a bill to a point where there is real pressure on the President to stop this. Simple arithmetic.

11

Ginger Yellow 03.16.05 at 5:37 pm

We don’t need to grind them into the dust. This isn’t social security. We need to stop them torturing people.

12

luckyjack 03.16.05 at 6:48 pm

Of course we want it outlawed. But as for simple arithmetic, Katherine, the Bush administration has been telling us that 2+2=5 on a long list of policies and at least half the country believes it.
How quaint to think that the passage of this or any other bill will stop “them” from torturing people. Jesus H. Christ, what planet have you people been on for the last four years? Sixty million Americans voted for the architects of Abu Ghraib and (in essence) the indefinite suspension of a whole host of constitutional protections and you think some mealy-mouthed shit from Congress is going to stop them? Oh right, I forgot–reason, logic, evidence, the rule of law, and popular and expert opinion have so famously circumscribed the actions of the Bush Administration. How could I forget!?! Perhaps because those architects of our new and improved torture state that weren’t reelected or promoted are now training the best future legal minds at Harvard or Boalt and elsewhere I presume. You know, unlimited executive power during a period of war lasting an indefinite period of time is really the American Way, and that sort of thing. Yes, we need them to stop torturing people. But having to grovel and beg for a couple, or even a dozen, Republican votes to condemn this lasting national shame isn’t going to change a thing. They have to be identified with this disgrace and driven out of power assuming anyone actually gives a damn anymore, which I seriously doubt. Allowing both parties to be identified as “against torture” is a lose-lose proposition.

13

hilzoy 03.16.05 at 8:53 pm

To be clear: when I said I didn’t want torture to be a partisan issue, what I meant was: I want there to be a broad consensus in this country that torture is wrong. I want us to disagree on all sorts of things, but not on matters of fundamental human decency.
Failing that, I want some Republicans in Congress to support this bill for two reasons: first, it won’t pass otherwise, and second, that might help prevent Republican citizens from viewing support for this bill as a dismissible “Democratic” thing.
That’s what I meant: that holding the bill constant, I wanted it to be supported by people on both sides. What I did not mean was: holding the current positions of Congressional Republicans constant, I do not want to criticize those positions lest I seem ‘partisan’. Not at all. I will criticize, vehemently, anyone who doesn’t support this. I am trying, in my no doubt ineffective little way, to raise the cost of not supporting it even as we speak. But I would rather the occasion for that criticism does not arise.

14

Nell Lancaster 03.16.05 at 9:23 pm

Lucy Phirr, Uncle Kvetch and others might enjoy the Poor Man’s response to a Republican blogger trying to mobilize other Republicans against rendition to torture.
I enjoyed it too, because the Man is funny as hell, but I don’t agree with it. First, because a Democratic administration has engaged in the same practice (though not on the same scale, and not with the blanket authority this current President gave to the CIA). Second, because this issue is too fundamental and it’s too soon to give up on people on the other side of the partisan divide.
Given all the issues affected by who’s in the White House, it’s just impossible to say about any particular Bush voter that they were voting for torture. Raising a huge and ugly issue like torture with people in your community is hard, but necessary. This legislation is very helpful in offering an action that is immediate, manageable, and might actually make a difference.

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