At Alberto Gonzales i det hele tatt er foreslått som USAs justisminister er en skandale, skriver Mark Danner i NYTimes. Gonzales var presidentens legal counsel og skrev betenkningen om at presidenten står over Geneve-konvensjonene. For å unngå torturanklager, omdefinerte man fysisk press til fremkalling av smerte som ligner på organsvikt. Man måtte bare ikke la fangen dø.

Mannen som var med å legge det juridiske grunnlaget for USAs brudd på en lang tradisjon med overholdelse av menneskrerettigheter, også i krig, kan bli ny justisminister. Som sådan skal han behandle de overtramp han selv var med å implementere, skriver Danner.

Han tror det er liten vilje i Kongressen til å stanse utnevnelsen. Vanlige folk greier ikke trenge gjennom skodden av rapporter, høringer osv. Dermed blir toturpraksisen sanksjonert, og «vi blir alle torturister», skriver Danner.

Det er en alvorlig utvikling.

When Alberto Gonzales takes his seat before the Senate Judiciary Committee today for hearings to confirm whether he will become attorney general of the United States, Americans will bid farewell to that comforting story line. The senators are likely to give full legitimacy to a path that the Bush administration set the country on more than three years ago, a path that has transformed the United States from a country that condemned torture and forbade its use to one that practices torture routinely. Through a process of redefinition largely overseen by Mr. Gonzales himself, a practice that was once a clear and abhorrent violation of the law has become in effect the law of the land.

In the next few days we are likely to hear how Mr. Gonzales recommended strongly, against the arguments of the secretary of state and military lawyers, that prisoners in Afghanistan be denied the protection of the Geneva Conventions. We are also likely to hear how, under Mr. Gonzales’s urging, lawyers in the Department of Justice contrived – when confronted with the obstacle that the United States had undertaken, by treaty and statute, to make torture illegal – simply to redefine the word to mean procedures that would produce pain «of an intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure.» By this act of verbal legerde2_kommentar, interrogation techniques like water-boarding that plainly constituted torture suddenly became something less than that.

But what we are unlikely to hear, given the balance of votes in the Senate, are many voices making the obvious argument that with this record, Mr. Gonzales is unfit to serve as attorney general. So let me make it: Mr. Gonzales is unfit because the slow river of litigation is certain to bring before the next attorney general a raft of torture cases that challenge the very policies that he personally helped devise and put into practice. He is unfit because, while the attorney general is charged with upholding the law, the documents show that as White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales, in the matter of torture, helped his client to concoct strategies to circumvent it. And he is unfit, finally, because he has rightly become the symbol of the United States’ fateful departure from a body of settled international law and human rights practice for which the country claims to stand.

On the other hand, perhaps it is fitting that Mr. Gonzales be confirmed. The system of torture has, after all, survived its disclosure. We have entered a new era; the traditional story line in which scandal leads to investigation and investigation leads to punishment has been supplanted by something else. Wrongdoing is still exposed; we gaze at the photographs and read the documents, and then we listen to the president’s spokesman «reiterate,» as he did last week, «the president’s determination that the United States never engage in torture.» And there the story ends.

En ting er at en hær som praktiserer tortur risikerer at tilfangetatte soldater lider samme skjebne. Enda verre er kanskje den forråelse som skjer med soldatene som berøres.

torture has a way of undermining the forces using it, as it did with the French Army in Algeria.

By using torture, the country relinquishes the very ideological advantage – the promotion of democracy, freedom and human rights – that the president has so persistently claimed is America’s most powerful weapon in defeating Islamic extremism. One does not reach democracy, or freedom, through torture.

But for America, torture is self-defeating; for a strong country it is in the end a strategy of weakness. After Mr. Gonzales is confirmed, the road back – to justice, order and propriety – will be very long. Torture will belong to us all.

Mark Danner is the author of «Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror.»

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