After today’s votes in the Seante regarding S 3930: Military Commissions Act of 2006, here’s a list of Dems who feel that it’s OK to torture detainees captured during the so-called “war on terror,” as well as ignore the Geneva Conventions:

Carper (D-DE)
Johnson (D-SD)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Lieberman (CfL-CT – still technically a Dem)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Stabenow (D-MI)

….and a special category:

Beyond The Pale (voted against the habeas amendment):
Ben Nelson (D-NE)

And just in case people think I’m a “cut-and-run liberal,” I offer this: yes, we need to prosecute terrorists and interrogate persons of interest to get information to preserve national security. Given how little the current administration has actually done to reduce terrorism in the world, we need all the help we can get to keep our coutry safe.

And I don’t think the answer to the Middle Eastern quagmire is to immediately withdraw troops – there needs to be a clear exit strategy that won’t completely destabilize Iraq, Iran, Syria and other Middle Eastern states. We need an exit strategy, period – something that hasn’t yet been forged by either major party in the U.S. political system.

That said, we’re still engaged in military action, and are still imprisoning many suspected Al-Qaida and other terrorist suspects. And as we’re in a so-called “state of war” (though Congress never declared a true war), our own troops, NGO workers, humanitarian aid workers, and civilians are being captured and imprisoned, as well.

However, the Geneva Conventions provide for the humane treatment of prisoners of war or military action, irregardless of whose “side” the prisoners are on. S 3930 (and its related House resolution) creates a dangerous precident for the United States: “selective interpretation” of the Geneva Conventions essentially moots internationally recognized rules of engagement.

Additionally, the passage of this bill further erodes a justice system seen worldwide as a model of civility, where prisoners of all stripes are considered innocent until proven guilty. Yet by allowing gigantic loopholes for torture, coercion and other forms of inhumane treatment of prisoners for the purpose of getting what is, at this point, largely outdated or inaccurate information on terrorist activity, the U.S. Congress (and soon, the President) has relegated our justice system to that of many régimes damned by the school of history.

However, anybody who has followed the Bush administration knows it doesn’t pay any heed to history – nor does it respect the future of our citizens and their welfare in the world. It is truly a sad time to be a citizen of the United States.

My own $0.02: not only do we need to adhere to the Geneva Conventions, the United States also needs to be held accountable to the International Criminal Court. Maybe if there’s some actual recourse for running scattershot through sovereign states, killing tens of thousands of people (the majority of whom were innocent and harbored no ill will toward the U.S.), treating prisoners with a lack of basic humanity – maybe if that’s the case, our leaders would think twice before engaging in pointless, wasteful, morally reprehensible military actions.

I close with a quote from Carl Sagan – scientist, author, skeptic, atheist – about how fragile our world situation is in the grand scheme of things:

We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

(11 May 1996)