John Salazar is part of the problem when it comes to U.S. policy on terrorism, as are almost all Republicans in this country.
He was one of a 34 Democratic Congressmen who joined all but seven Republicans (including all of them in the Colorado delegation) to vote in favor of H.R. 6166. John Salazar has disgraced himself, shamed our country, and tarnished his political party, by voting for this bill.
1. Suspends the writ of habeas corpus for "an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination." (Section 7).
2. Grants amnesty to soldiers for committed war crimes by violating the Genvea Conventions "between September 11, 2001, and December 30, 2005." (Section 8).
3. Provides that there is no remedy for victims of U.S. violations of the Geneva Conventions: "No person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas corpus or other civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States is a party as a source of rights in any court of the United States or its States or territories." (Section 5).
4. Ends criminal liabilty for all but the most egregious violations of the Geneva Conventions in the "war on terrorism" while allowing the President to define those "grave violations" narrowly, even where those definitions are in violation of international laws and precedents interpreting the Geneva Conventions. Thus, the President and U.S. officials are authorized to engage in some forms of torture. For example, many of the abuses at Abu Grahib would be immune from all criminal or civil sanction. Rape secured by means other than brute force is authorized as a form of interrogation immune from criminal or civil sanction. (Section 6).
5. Allows select detainees to face military commissions, which, while improved from President Bush's initial plan, still fail to meet basic standards of justice. For example, these tribunals, which would be allowed to impose the death penalty, would be permitted to punish as war crimes offenses such as conspiracy which have never been recognized as war crimes before, and would also be permitted to consider evidence obtained through torture, and evidence obtained in the United States in violation of U.S. law. (Sections 2, 3, 4 and 9).
6. Does not prevent Americans, even Americans in the United States where courts are functioning, from being detained at the President's say so as enemy combatants.
The New York Times recaps some of the things that are wrong with this bill, echoing my assessment above.
John Salazar apparently thinks, as do each of the Republicans who joined him in this vote, that this is O.K.
This bill will seriously hamper the ability of the United States to receive cooperation from our allies which we need to defeat terrorists. It will encourage abusive treatment of detainees which doesn't product accurate intelligence and creates legitimate grievances against our tyrannical and cruel methods that will spur more terrorism. It makes all of us party to abandoning core prinicipals of the American way. It aids and abets past and future war criminals.
Now the measure goes to the U.S. Senate. I don't have high hopes that Ken Salazar will wake up and see that this bill trashes American values and makes Americans more vulnerable to terrorism. But, I hope none the less that somehow the Senate will stop this horrible betrayal of our country, a mistake more grave than the one we made when we commenced the war in Iraq.