WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House on Friday threatened to veto a $440.2 billion defense spending bill in the Senate because it wasn’t enough money for the Pentagon and also warned lawmakers not to add any amendments to regulate the treatment of detainees or set up a commission to probe abuse. (link)

I’m speechless…almost.

“A fifty-three-page report, obtained by The New Yorker, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba … listed some of the wrongdoing: ‘Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.”
–Seymour M. Hersh, “Torture at Abu Ghraib,” The New Yorker

“I’m not a lawyer. My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture. … I don’t know if it is correct to say what you just said, that torture has taken place, or that there’s been a conviction for torture. And therefore I’m not going to address the torture word.”
–Rumsfeld, Defense Department Operational Update Briefing, May 4, 2004

There is only one question to be asked: what are they hiding?
You can read more about the proposed cuts in defense spending here. I’m sure there’s much to be discussed. However, the addition of the use of veto power to derail investigations of torture at the hands of US soldiers is unconscionable.

The Bush administration has already set up protections for itself by refusing to participate in the International Criminal Court. The military justice system has handed out lax sentence after lax sentence to the soldiers involved. And, frankly, the timing of this threat is suspect since a judge just ruled yesterday that more photos from the Abu Ghraib torture cases can now be released – most likely a decision that will be appealed – coupled with the rumours surrounding the possible, upcoming nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the US Supreme Court.

How the president can threaten such an extreme measure, the power of the veto, to suppress the rights of all of the victims and their families is beyond the pale.

The fact that Bush is attempting to veto a Republican defense budget bill will bring a chorus of dissenters not only from the left and center but from his very allies on the right. He’s playing with fire – to a degree. It’s quite likely the Republicans will cave or compromise on the spending details but those Republicans will have a hard time defending a president who does not want to investigate one of the biggest outrages of the Iraq war at a time when Bush’s numbers are so low and the majority of Americans oppose the war. What possible justification could those Republicans have for stonewalling such an investigation? Even Pat Roberts made this assertion in May, 2004 when speaking about the Abu Ghraib torture:

“I think ultimately you have to go right up the chain to the secretary of defense or to the civilian leadership of the military,” said Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, a member of the Armed Services Committee.

“We don’t know where this is going to lead.”

I think Karl Rove has made a huge political gamble here that he and Bush will ultimately lose.

Get the word out now.

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