Friday, June 17, 2005

Hagel/Nelson Talk Torture

by Kyle Michaelis
What's this? Sen. Chuck Hagel, idol of the Nebraska Republicans, is actually buying into the notion that closing the Gitmo detention camp may be a good idea. Read it and weep:
Raising concerns about prisoner mistreatment, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says the Pentagon should close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and ship foreign terrorist suspects to a military base in the United States.

Stories circulating about possible prisoner abuse make the center "seem like an old Soviet gulag up in Siberia or something," Harkin said Thursday. "That's not what we stand for."

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said shutting down the detention center and moving prisoners elsewhere should be among alternatives considered by President Bush.

Harkin and Hagel, although political opposites, joined a number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill speaking out in recent days about conditions at the base where hundreds of suspected terrorists are being held.

Harkin called for closure as well. He said that if the prisoners were transferred to a U.S. military base in the states, they might receive more outside oversight.

"I lay the responsibility for this on the commander-in-chief, President Bush. He could stop this tomorrow," Harkin said.

Hagel, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said classified files he has seen on prisoners suggest that many of them are "very hardened, hardened criminals and terrorists."

But he said their treatment is among a number of issues causing the U.S. image abroad to suffer.

"Any form of torture or implied torture or implied methods of torture is absolutely unacceptable," Hagel said. "We've got to be very clear on that."

He faulted civilian leaders at the Pentagon for not doing enough to make that point, resulting in the earlier examples of mistreatment at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq...

There are real questions about living conditions and interrogation practices at Guantanamo Bay, said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But Nelson also said, "Closing the prison has a significant symbolic meaning, so we need to know more about the allegations and the impact of closing or moving the prison on military operations and national security."

Of course, the Democratic Harkin is fair game - may as well be Jimmy Carter Jr. - but come on Omaha World-Herald, where's the editorial denouncing your patron saint Chuck Hagel for saying that even implied torture is not acceptable? Don't you see that laying the blame with "civilian leaders at the Pentagon" is a direct swipe at the Bush Administration?

Or, does the knowledge that Hagel will only talk the talk of an independent while voting the votes of a Republican lackey buy him a free pass? Let's give them a day or two to decide.

That Ben Nelson, though, what a trooper. He politely questions the administration's policies while simultaneously questioning their questioning. I can't help liking this guy. He doesn't have "a pair" but somehow it works for him. I'd certainly take Nelson the Contortionist over Hagel the Illusionist's slights-of-hand any day of the week. God bless Gentle Ben.


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