The Senate got bipartisan support for the passage of the White House’s comprehensive terrorist prosecution bill this evening, putting an emphatic stamp on a victory for the Bush administration. In the end, the bill garnered 65 votes and Bill Frist fought off attempts to bury the bill in amendments:
The Senate on Thursday endorsed President Bush’s plans to prosecute and interrogate terror suspects, all but sealing congressional approval for legislation that Republicans intend to use on the campaign trail to assert their toughness on terrorism.
The 65-34 vote means the bill could reach the president’s desk by week’s end. The House passed nearly identical legislation on Wednesday and was expected to approve the Senate bill on Friday, sending it on to the White House.
The bill would create military commissions to prosecute terrorism suspects. It also would prohibit blatant abuses of detainees but grant the president flexibility to decide what interrogation techniques are legally permissible.
The White House and its supporters have called the measure crucial in the anti-terror fight, but some Democrats said it left the door open to abuse, violating the U.S. Constitution in the name of protecting Americans.
Frist predicted that the bill would get a significant number of Democratic votes, but most people thought that the tally would be closer. Democratic Party leadership had blasted the bill in recent days, claiming that the elimination of habeas corpus for foreign terrorists captured abroad would mean the end of civil liberties in America. Equally objectionable, the Democrats said, was the language that the bill used to comply with the Supreme Court’s insistence on adhering to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
In the end, though, only a third of the Senate stood with the Democratic Party’s leadership. That should give Democrats some pause about the direction their party has taken since 9/11, and perhaps voters should consider this as well.
UPDATE AND BUMP: The vote has been posted at the Senate site. The only Republican to vote against the bill was, predictably, Lincoln Chafee. Despite throwing some smoke earlier, Arlen Specter voted for the measure. Twelve Democrats voted for the bill, including Joe Lieberman, and that should keep the netroots chattering for the next few days. Other Democrats crossing the aisle are:
Carper – DE
Johnson – SD
Landrieu – LA
Lautenberg – NJ
Menendez – NJ
Ben Nelson – NE
Bill Nelson – FL
Pryor – AR
Rockefeller – WV
Salazar – CO
Stabenow – MI
This is an interesting list. The red-state Democrats are all represented, and some from other states are in tight re-election campaigns. Carper, Lautenberg, and Rockefeller don’t qualify as such, and their support seems very telling. Rockefeller and Lautenberg has spent a lot of time criticizing the Bush administration on the war, and Rockefeller has been very aggressive. Their assent to the bill sends a quiet but noticeable message about the stakes involved.
Their support means that the United States will not change 200+ years of history and treat captured enemies as citizens. We will not suddenly decide that foreign terrorists captured abroad now should have the same rights as the American citizens and residents they try mightily to murder in large numbers. We will not shy away from using the successful methods used to prevent eight separate attacks on our country by eschewing the kinds of techniques our own Special Forces troops endure during their training.
Twelve Democrats voted for common sense, tradition, and successful national-security programs during a time of war … only twelve Democrats.
UPDATE II: For those who haven’t heard about SERE training for American and British Special Forces, here is a detailed description:
Like, for example, there is a secret place not so far from one of our best ally’s capitals, where male prisoners are stripped naked and chained to splintery wood pallets. They are kept for days in stress positions, hosed down with freezing water, deprived of sleep and warmth, and regularly interrogated by female guards who mock the size of their genitals and impugn their manhood. What secret place is this? It’s where the best of the SAS and what used to be called the 14 Intelligence Company go for their capture survival training.
In one secret location right here in the United States, there is a prison camp run by federal authorities where the inmates are regularly waterboarded, stripped and hosed down with cold water, kept in stress positions, deprived of sleep, and denied food and water. Where is it? It is in Virginia, at a location where CIA undercover operatives are trained in how to withstand coercive interrogation methods.
There is another U.S. facility where humiliation, mortification, shame, and embarrassment are the least of the nasty things that can happen. Denizens at this facility get so hypothermic they actually urinate on one another to keep warm. Where? At the Naval installation in Coronado where SEALs go through their BUD/S training ordeal.
If it’s good enough for our troops, it’s good enough for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, and the like.
UPDATE III: Here are the Geneva Conventions, for anyone who wants to peruse them. Nandrews in the comments wants to know where it states that noncombatants do not get the protections of the GC. The Society of Professional Journalists’ GC site has a handy alphabetical guide to the conventions. Under “combatant status”, the SPJ notes:
Convention I offers protections to wounded combatants, who are defined as members of the armed forces of a party to an international conflict, members of militias or volunteer corps including members of organized resistance movements as long as they have a well-defined chain of command, are clearly distinguishable from the civilian population, carry their arms openly, and obey the laws of war. (Convention I, Art. 13, Sec. 1 and Sec. 2) …
Convention III offers a wide range of protections to combatants who have become prisoners of war. (Convention III, Art. 4)
For example, captured combatants cannot be punished for acts of war except in the cases where the enemy’s own soldiers would also be punished, and to the same extent. (Convention III, Art. 87) …
However, other individuals, including civilians, who commit hostile acts and are captured do not have these protections. For example, civilians in an occupied territory are subject to the existing penal laws. (Convention IV, Art. 64)
Unlawful combatants are not afforded the protections given under Part III of Convention III, and for good reason. The entire point of the Geneva Conventions is to protect civilians. The rights afforded uniformed combatants and denied to all others are intended to motivate forces to distinguish themselves from civilians so that civilians do not get put at unnecessary risk by warfare. Terrorists undermine these rules of war by deliberately hiding among civilians and targeting them for their attacks. Giving terrorists the same rights as uniformed combatants under the GC not only doesn’t act to protect our troops, it legitimizes terrorist attacks on civilians.
For most people, this is common knowledge. Others have to have it spelled out for them.