Friday, September 15, 2006

Republicans Divided, Senate Committee Defies Bush over Military Tribunals

A majority of voters having turned against the war in Iraq, Republican strategists are hoping to use congressional votes on security issues in the election this year. As the Washington Post reports, three prominent GOP senators are making that more difficult:
A Senate committee rebuffed the personal entreaties of President Bush yesterday, rejecting his proposed strategies for interrogating and trying enemy combatants and approving alternative legislation that he has strenuously opposed.
The bipartisan vote sets up a legislative showdown on an issue that GOP strategists had hoped would unite their party and serve as a cudgel against Democrats in the Nov. 7 elections. Instead, Bush and congressional Republican leaders are at loggerheads with a dissident group led by Sen. John McCain (R), who says the president's approach would jeopardize the safety of U.S. troops and intelligence operatives.
McCain has teamed up with committee chairman John Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (all military veterans) in offering legislation that respects the Geneva Conventions. Susan Collins of Maine and all of the Democrats on the committee joined the three in sending the bill to the Senate floor.
A number of judge advocates general had opposed Bush's proposal. So eyebrows were raised when they agreed to sign a letter under pressure from the White House:
Senior judge advocates general had publicly questioned many aspects of the administration's position, especially any reinterpreting of the Geneva Conventions. The White House and GOP lawmakers seized on what appeared to be a change of heart to say that they now have military lawyers on their side.
But the letter was signed only after an extraordinary round of negotiations Wednesday between the judge advocates and William J. Haynes II, the Defense Department's general counsel, according to Republican opponents of Bush's proposal. The military lawyers refused to sign a letter of endorsement. But after hours of cajoling, they assented to write that they "do not object," according to three Senate GOP sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were divulging private negotiations.
Graham, a former Air Force judge advocate general, promised to summon the lawyers to a committee hearing and to ask for an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the letter.
Retired general Colin Powell also opposed Bush's proposal, which prompted White Hose spokesman Tony Snow to say that Powell doesn't know what he's talking about:
"They don't understand what we're trying to do here," he said of Powell and retired Army Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., who wrote a similar letter. Asked if Powell is "confused," Snow said, "Yes."
As previously noted, those opposing Bush on the treatment of terror suspects aren't softies, but are concerned about the treatment of U.S. citizens serving in uniform.


Blogger jason said...

Did you hear Bush's press conf. today? Freaky. He is totally losing it.

3:33 PM, September 15, 2006  

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