In more than 200 pages of written responses to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who plan to vote today on his nomination, Gonzales told senators that laws and treaties prohibit torture by any U.S. agent.
But he said the Convention Against Torture treaty, as ratified by the Senate, doesn’t prohibit the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” tactics on non-U.S. citizens who are captured abroad.
As he did at the hearing, Gonzales said in his written responses that President Bush had ordered that torture not be used by the U.S. military or the CIA. He used the definition of torture in U.S. statutes: an act “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.”
But he drew a distinction between U.S. anti-torture statutes and the international Convention Against Torture, which calls on nations to prevent acts of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” that may fall short of torture.
When the Senate ratified the treaty, it defined such treatment as violations of the Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendments. Because of that provision, Gonzales said, the Justice Department decided that the convention applies only to actions under U.S. jurisdiction, not “treatment with respect to aliens overseas.”
Cal Jillson, a constitutional scholar who has followed the careers of Gonzales and Bush since they were in Texas, said Gonzales was following basic Bush administration policy: Don’t admit mistakes or re-evaluate decisions.
“They are very loath to reconsider actions in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks,” said Jillson, a professor at Southern Methodist University. “The message is, the president never approved of torture; but the question is, did you play with the definition so that almost nothing qualified as torture?”
Although the spotlight is correctly focused on Gonzales, never forget that his various stated opinions on torture, expressed in legal opinions and his senate testimony, were prompted by a desire to provide cover for George Bush’s torture policy. Bush, whose sadism was apparent as far back as his childhood, is the one responsible for the decision to utilize torture in prosecuting his War on Terra. Gonzales is simply his consigliere, seeking legal wiggle room for an abhorrent policy.