Thursday, April 23, 2009

Did Bill Frist Heart Torture?

Amid all of this discussion about the Bush Administration’s approval of torture and holding Administration officials who justified its use accountable, it bears remembering that Tennessee’s own former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist played an important role in ensuring the use of torture became SOP.

He did so by quashing a Senate bill sponsored by John McCain, Lindsay Graham and John Warner which would have limited the use of torture and upheld the Geneva Conventions. And he did so at the behest of the Bush White House.

From the memory hole:
But Frist struck a more jarring tone, telling reporters that the trio's bill is unacceptable despite its majority support.

For a bill to pass, Frist said, "it's got to preserve our intelligence programs," including the CIA's aggressive interrogation techniques, and it must "protect classified information from terrorists." He said that "the president's bill achieves those two goals" but that "the Warner-McCain-Graham bill falls short."

The disagreement centers on the Geneva Conventions, which say wartime detainees must be "treated humanely." Bush backs language saying the United States complies so long as CIA interrogators abide by a 2005 law barring "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" treatment of captives. Warner and his allies say they are concerned that Bush's approach would invite nations to interpret the Geneva Conventions in lax ways that could lead to abusive treatment of captured U.S. troops.

The Warner contingent also opposes Bush's bid to allow detainees to be convicted on secret evidence they are not allowed to see.

So Bill Frist would not allow limits to the Administration’s use of torture. He wanted us to waterboard someone 183 times in one month, and he wanted this over the objection of the one U.S. Senator who has actually been tortured as a prisoner of war and knows torture doesn’t work.

And he’s a doctor?

(And I’m with Jon Stewart on this one: at one point does the law of diminishing returns come into play? After the 50th waterboarding, don’t you think a suspect will have figured out that he’s not actually drowning? And wouldn’t the interrogators have figured out they’re not actually getting any useful information? If torture worked, would it have been necessary to waterboard someone 183 times in one month?)

I suspect the Administration didn’t care if torture works or not. According to a Senate Armed Services Committee report, Gitmo interrogators used torture to produce a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, though none existed. They were just going to keep torturing people until someone gave them the information the Bush Administration needed to justify their illegal war. And Tennessee’s own Bill Frist had his own small role to play in making sure this happened.

I repeat: he’s a doctor???! Do no harm, Dr. Frist. Do no harm.

Bill Frist has undergone a major bluewashing in recent months. As part of his Great Political Makeover™, the kinder, gentler Bill Frist is suddenly concerned about progressive issues like global poverty and education. But that doesn’t mean we’ll forget the Bill Frist who was Senate majority leader, the one who sailed in to rescue Terri Schiavo and killed an anti-torture bill and, oh yeah, pushed Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, too.

Does Bill Frist seriously think we’re going to forget his dirty past?