Meet the New Boss

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Looks like Alberto Gonzales will be replacing outgoing AG John Ashcroft. You may recall that the last time Gonzales' name was prominent in the news, he was advising the president to avoid potential war crimes charges by declaring detainees outside the bounds of the "quaint" Geneva Conventions.

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  1. Well, that’s a relief. I was worried he’d make a sane decision likely to garner broad support, like Rudy G.

    More right-wing freaks!! MOOOOOOORE!!! Richard Perle for State!! Alan Keyes for the new leadrer of the Palestinians!!!

  2. Actually, I understand that Keyes has already converted to Islam and changed his address to a PO Box in Jericho in anticipation of running for that position. However, he denies this is carpetbagging because “it is what the people of Palestine want”.

  3. Brad,

    My understanding is that Rudy turned the job down, which, some have speculated, suggests that he may want to run for the big one in ’08.

  4. Sanchez: Had Bush named Big Bird as the new AG, you undoubtedly would have written about the troubling conditions during his time at Sesame Street, including crushing the first amendment rights of Mr. Snuffalupagus and the eminent domain issues surrounding a dissident, disaffected green “entity” made to sleep in a trash can.

  5. Shorter “Call me snake”:

    “If Bush nominates giant puppets to run the Justice Department, we should gladly acquiesce.”

  6. More right-wing freaks!! MOOOOOOORE!!!

    Gonzales is not a “right-wing freak”. He has taken stands for affirmative action and against parental notification laws. His position that prisoners should be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention without technically being covered by it was prompted by concerns that later administrations might use the vaguely-defined War Crimes Act to bring *unjustified* charges for partisan reasons. Not that that sort of thing ever happens in Washington…

    Side note: why would Giuliani *want* the job? It could only be bad for his popularity and it isn’t like he needs the increased name recognition anyway.

  7. He also has a terrible record on the preference issue.

  8. Dan: “His position that prisoners should be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention without technically being covered by it was prompted by concerns that later administrations might use the vaguely-defined War Crimes Act to bring *unjustified* charges for partisan reasons. Not that that sort of thing ever happens in Washington…”

    Uh, Dan, exactly how many prosecutions of former administration officials for war crimes have ever taken place in the 20th Century in the United States, let alone unjustified ones? [Insert sound of crickets chirping here]

  9. Gonzales isn’t even in the top 20 of right wing freaks in the Bush administration. He represents a clear shift to the center from Ashcroft. As far as realistic nominees for AG go, this is probably the best civil libertarians could have hoped for.

  10. SR, your comment on Keyes was hilarious!

  11. thoreau: “SR, your comment on Keyes was hilarious!”

    Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be here all week!

  12. As far as realistic nominees for AG go, this is probably the best civil libertarians could have hoped for.

    perhaps, mr joe — isn’t it funny how often the acts of the bush admin are judged positive if “it could’ve been worse”? — but time will tell. ashcroft was clearly a kook, though.

  13. How many more billions of dollars will Gonzales want to be spending on that fence to keep out those steenking Mexicans?

  14. Uh, Dan, exactly how many prosecutions of former administration officials for war crimes have ever taken place in the 20th Century in the United States, let alone unjustified ones?

    I apologize for confusing you, SR. I was referring to the Washington habit of trumping up criminal charges in general, not war crimes charges in particular.

  15. When I heard Asshat had resigned, I rolled a big fat doobie. I’m not sure if it’s worth firing up yet though.

  16. Gonzales isn’t even in the top 20 of right wing freaks in the Bush administration. He represents a clear shift to the center from Ashcroft.

    I disagree wholeheartedly.

    The Memorandum on Torture

    Powell’s memorandum on the Geneva Conventions

    Gonzales’ answer

    With this nomination, George W Bush has just given the finger to Powell, the rule of law, and fundamental human rights.

  17. What human rights are you referring to? And can you please cite those portions of the linked documents that advocate violating those human rights?

  18. The first two documents were written by people other than Gonzalez.

    In the third Gonzalez is saying that under the Geneva Conventions, Bush could be at risk of being prosecuted as a war criminal. He argues that the Geneva Conventions do not apply, but prisoners should still be treated in accordance with the principles of the Geneva Convention.

    So he’s basically saying that we should continue operating under policies consistent with the Geneva Convention, but continue to insist this is exempt to avoid being charged with a war crime. If I had a lawyer, I’d want him to tell me how to avoid going to jail — especially if it can be done in an ethical way.

    So, then, what is all the fuss about?

  19. Quick comment re: Giuliani and “the big one”: Not Gonna Happen. Look at our Presidents’ names since 1950 or so (roughly the beginning of the TV era): Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush. We don’t like our presidents’ names too complicated or too ethnic, and Giuliani’s both. Eisenhower is the most notable exception, and he had the big plus of being a war hero. Dukakis? Should have known he was going to lose right from the start. Kucinich? Blagojevich? -what are you, smoking crack? Not to mention Badnarik…

  20. We’re expected to trust that the government will extend Geneva Convention rights even as they insist that they don’t have to and can do whatever they want? Isn’t that just a tad naive?

  21. Not naive, Shem. Just a lawyer working up unethical ways to cover his boss’s ass. There was a time when a lawyer could get disbarred for stuff like this.

  22. I’m not a Geneva Conventions scholar, but don’t they say that POWs only need to give their name, rank, and serial number (or something to that effect)?

    This might work with ordinary military, but clearly with terrorists this would not and should not apply. That doesn’t mean that torture is okay.

    What is needed is an update to the Geneva Conventions that allows a slightly different treatment of terrorists but still protects against torture and other rights abuses.

  23. Ammonium:
    Agree re: “update that allows slightly different treatment of terrorists.”

    My problem with how Bush and Gonzales proceeded was that it was so super-secret, hush-hush. If we’re going to change our national policy pertaining to the Geneva Conventions, we should have an open debate about it. When you make up a bunch of (very very) vague rules like The Bush administration did, you get confusion over what is and is not appropriate (this was Colin Powell’s concern, and he’s been proved right, IMHO).

  24. I’m not sure which Bush and Gonzales proceedings were so “super-secret, hush-hush”. I have no idea what’s going on in the background, of course. But the memo, written 1/25/02, was flying through the media by 1/27/02.

    I do remember there be a public debate at the time. How much this influenced policy — I don’t know. I think the general consesus seemed to be that the Geneva Convention rules were better suited for military POWs than terrorists who don’t even have a rank or serial number to give.

    To conclude Powell was right you have to assume that the Geneva Convention rules would have prevented the torture from happening. That’s arguable. Certainly the slipperly slope argument has merit.

    On the other hand, if Geneva applied then any sort of interrogations could constitute a war crime, even if they did not constitute torture.

    Maybe Kerry’s idea that terrorism is a law enforcement issue has merit. Law enforcement standards would probably violate the Geneva Conventions but bar torture.

  25. The crux, as I understand it, is that if we wanted to treat prisoners as enemy combatants, free from the Geneva Convention, Bush had to lump Al Quaeda, who have no country, with the Taliban, who did. This logic was bought hook, line and sinker and directly or indirectly led to Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and the beating the Justice Department keeps taking anytime they go to court on a detainee.

    Once a bad decision is made, there are no good ones.

  26. How many more billions of dollars will Gonzales want to be spending on that fence to keep out those steenking Mexicans?

    More?

    I’d settle for the first “one”.

    The line starts over there…

  27. How many more billions of dollars will Gonzales want to be spending on that fence to keep out those steenking Mexicans?

    I don’t know, why don’t we ask the 47% of Hispanics in Arizona who voted for Prop. 200? (Isn’t libertarianism supposed to be opposed to race-baiting or at least childish comments?)

  28. The first two documents were written by people other than Gonzalez.

    Yes. The first one by Bybee “for” Gonzales and not disowned by the latter but rather apparently disseminated by him. With his name writ large at the top.

    The second by soon-to-be former Secretary Powell, offered since the third is an answer to it.

    The conclusion is: “On balance, I believe that the arguments for reconsideration and reversal are unpersuasive.”

    He argues that the Geneva Conventions do not apply, but prisoners should still be treated in accordance with the principles of the Geneva Convention.

    “to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity”.

    I refer you to an earlier post (I don’t remember where it is now) which quotes The Economist (citing Hersh’s book) concerning the secret presidential directive authorising agents of the US to scour the earth for terrorist suspects, detain, interrogate, and eliminate them (basically) “outside the law”.

    Given Bush’s “I will do whatever it takes”, the “consistent with military necessity” is a significant permission slip.

    not sure which Bush and Gonzales proceedings were so “super-secret, hush-hush”.

    ” At a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, senators asked Attorney General John D. Ashcroft to release both memos. Ashcroft said he would not discuss the contents of the Justice and Pentagon memos or turn them over to the committees.” (WP, June 13, 2004)

  29. That should read:

    The conclusion in the third memo is: “On balance…”

  30. Pesky Fly said:
    “Once a bad decision is made, there are no good ones.”

    Put another way: If you come to a fork in the road, and, if you take it, you’re forked.

  31. The legal argument that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to AQ and the Taliban is pretty iron-clad. The Convention applies to nation-states, which rules out AQ, and requires that fighters meet certain standards in order to qualify for its protection (which neither AQ nor the Taliban ever did).

    The only real question is a policy question, not a legal question – should we apply the Geneva Conventions to AQ and the Taliban anyway? Reasonable minds can differ on this. I’m not a particular fan of Gonzalez, but where he landed is probably about right – use the Conventions as a baseline, but don’t compromise our security; because the Conventions don’t apply by their own terms, it is impossible to violate them.

    I haven’t looked at the torture kerfuffle, but on the Conventions brouhaha I think he did a pretty decent job.

  32. 1. Why do the Taliban not qualify?

    on the Conventions brouhaha I think he did a pretty decent job.

    2. Goodbye Mr. Powell.

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