The Corner

James Schlesinger: “Appalling”

Just talked to James Schlesinger, former secretary of everything. He can’t be smeared as a right-wing Bush apologist or “pro-torture.” In fact, his report on Abu Ghraib is often cited by supporters of the McCain amendment.

He says the fall-out from Abu Ghraib has already limited our intelligence take: “We’ve already had a chilling effect on interrogations going on out there in the field.” He meant “chilling effect” in the sense that liberals use it–the tamping down of legitimate practices because of a crack-down on something else. He says it is now our rule to release anyone we catch in Iraq in three weeks unless we get them to confess to something. Detainees know how to game the system: “Don’t say anything for three weeks and they’ll release you.” He says the McCain Amendment will write this chilling effect into law: “It is likely to codify the inhibitions on interrogations”

Further, he says because of the McCain amendment, “We are going to extend Geneva rights to terrorists. That’s what we fought off in the Reagan Years in Protocol I. Now we’re going to legislate it.” This is absurd. “It’s appalling,” he says. And he makes a basic point: “The purpose of the Convention was to protect civilians. These people blow up civilians and we’re going to treat them as POW’s—it’s directly contrary to the Geneva Convention.”

Have the congressmen rushing into supporting the McCain amendment talked to the likes of James Schlesinger? Or they just doing what’s politically convenient on the basis of a debate framed by dishonest rhetoric on torture? To ask the questions is to answer them.

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