Ag19_3

A group of retired military generals is lobbying to prevent a War Crimes Act that would reject the baseline standards for detainee treatment under Geneva:

"There is nothing good about it," John Hutson, former judge advocate general of the Navy, said about the authority to conduct harsh interrogations codified in the Bush plan. "It is not effective in terms of gaining good intelligence. It is not good for the U.S. in terms of being a world leader. And it is not good for U.S. troops in terms of being the victims of it or perpetrating it."

I agree with Senator McCain, a former military detainee himself and subjected to torture by the enemy:

"On the detainee-treatment issue. Senator Warner and I and Senator Graham and others are not going to agree to changes in the definitions in Common Article 3, because that then sends the message to the world that we are not going to adhere fully to the Geneva Conventions. And we worry about, in the future, other nations maybe deciding to interpret Common Article 3 to their own purposes."

Nevertheless, the analyst whose judgment I've come to trust best on this issue is deeply worried about the Graham-McCain bill in parts. Marty Lederman's must-read plea to McCain and Graham can be read here. His concern is how the Bush administration has said it will interpret the plain meaning of Article 3 - and the evidence suggests they will interpret it to allow Bush's favorite euphemism: "alternative methods." Money quote:

If this is not what Senator McCain intends - and it appears from his public statements that it is not - then he should do one of two things: Either (i) retain Common Article 3's basic ban on all "cruel treatment and torture" as a subset of crimes under the War Crimes Act; or (ii) amend the legislation to specify that the McCain Amendment itself categorically prohibits such "alternative" techniques.

On the political front, I hear that the use of 9/11 families to promote the war crimes bill has been delayed a little, after worries in the White House that it might backfire so soon after the anniversary of 9/11.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.