Friday, I linked to a disturbing story about the U.S. military's Bush-approved post-Geneva rules of engagement. The U.S., under this president, now allows soldiers to kidnap the wives, girlfriends and even children of suspected insurgents in order to flush out the enemy. We saw some of this at Abu Ghraib, where relatives of alleged terrorists and insurgents were raped, abused and photographed to get them to lean on people outside the jail, or to blackmail them once they had left. A reader reminds me that kidnapping of wives and the use of blackmail have been openly conceded in the past. Money quote from a 2003 Washington Post piece:

"Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: 'If you want your family released, turn yourself in.' Such tactics are justified, he said, because, 'It's an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info.' They would have been released in due course, he added later. The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered."

I'm reminded of Fred Barnes' description of president Bush's leadership methods in his new book. All he cares about, Fred assures us, are the results, not the means. Fred thinks that's a good thing. When torture, illegal wire-tapping, kidnapping, rape and murder of defenseless prisoners are the means, I beg to differ. I'm also reminded of the following astonishing piece of dialogue, recorded recently at Notre Dame. In it, John Yoo, Dick Cheney's favorite legal protege, explains the Bush administration's view of the legal limits of the president's power:

"Cassel: If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty

Cassel: Also no law by Congress -- that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo...

Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that..."

Just a reminder of the moral universe in which this administration and its enablers live.

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