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Mr. Cheney: He will be remembered as the vice president who

*washingtonpost.com* <http://www.washingtonpost.com/>*Vice President for
Torture*

Wednesday, October 26, 2005; A18

VICE PRESIDENT Cheney is aggressively pursuing an initiative that may be
unprecedented for an elected official of the executive branch: He is
proposing that Congress legally authorize human rights abuses by
Americans. "Cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners is
banned by an international treaty negotiated by the Reagan
administration and ratified by the United States. The State Department
annually issues a report criticizing other governments for violating it.
Now Mr. Cheney is asking Congress to approve legal language that would
allow the CIA to commit such abuses against foreign prisoners it is
holding abroad. In other words, this vice president has become an open
advocate of torture.

His position is not just some abstract defense of presidential power.
The CIA is holding an unknown number of prisoners in secret detention
centers abroad. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, it has refused
to register those detainees with the International Red Cross or to allow
visits by its inspectors. Its prisoners have "disappeared," like the
victims of some dictatorships. The Justice Department and the White
House are known to have approved harsh interrogation techniques for some
of these people, including "waterboarding," or simulated drowning; mock
execution; and the deliberate withholding of pain medication. CIA
personnel have been implicated in the deaths during interrogation of at
least four Afghan and Iraqi detainees. Official investigations have
indicated that some aberrant practices by Army personnel in Iraq
originated with the CIA. Yet no CIA personnel have been held accountable
for this record, and there has never been a public report on the
agency's performance.

It's not surprising that Mr. Cheney would be at the forefront of an
attempt to ratify and legalize this shameful record. The vice president
has been a prime mover behind the Bush administration's decision to
violate the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture
and to break with decades of past practice by the U.S. military. These
decisions at the top have led to hundreds of documented cases of abuse,
torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Cheney's counsel,
David S. Addington, was reportedly one of the principal authors of a
legal memo justifying the torture of suspects. This summer Mr. Cheney
told several Republican senators that President Bush would veto the
annual defense spending bill if it contained language prohibiting the
use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel.

The senators ignored Mr. Cheney's threats, and the amendment, sponsored
by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), passed this month by a vote of 90 to 9.
So now Mr. Cheney is trying to persuade members of a House-Senate
conference committee to adopt language that would not just nullify the
McCain amendment but would formally adopt cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment as a legal instrument of U.S. policy. The Senate's earlier
vote suggests that it will not allow such a betrayal of American values.
As for Mr. Cheney: He will be remembered as the vice president who
campaigned for torture.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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