Maureen Dowd: He Let the Dogs Out

A good one.

He Let the Dogs Out!
Published: July 12, 2006

What better time than the dog days of summer to watch a dog-torture advocate get hounded?

As three female protesters in Abu Ghraib-style orange jumpsuits and black headscarves stood vigil in the back of the Senate Judiciary hearing room, like the supernatural chorus in “Macbeth,� William Haynes was grilled about his worthiness to ascend to the federal bench when his main claim to the promotion is complicity in letting Dick Cheney dance a jig on the Geneva Conventions.

“The State Department characterizes the use of dogs as an interrogation aid as torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment,’’ Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat, said to the Pentagon general counsel. “We publicly condemned the countries of Libya and Burma for using dogs in interrogation. In November of 2002, you recommended that Secretary Rumsfeld approve the use of dogs to intimidate detainees at Guantánamo.

“The Department of Defense’s own investigation concluded that this technique migrated from Guantánamo to Iraq and Abu Ghraib. At least two members of the armed forces have now been convicted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for using dogs to frighten detainees. It is striking that as these soldiers were prosecuted, you were being promoted. What message are we sending our troops? And what message are we sending the world, in light of your role in promulgating abusive interrogation techniques, like the use of dogs, stress positions and forced nudity. What message are we sending if we promote you to the second highest court in the land?�

The senator added that the message would be terribly unfair: “Well, we’re going to dispatch a few privates, a few corporals, a sergeant, maybe it will get to a lieutenant, but it’ll never get upstairs. … Apparently, upstairs there’s a promotion party. Downstairs people are being sent to prison.’’

Mr. Haynes, 48, lamely resorted to the argument that Abu Ghraib was simply a few bad apples, “the work of the night shift, without any authority whatsoever.�

Even as the Bush administration was forced to concede, after being slapped back by the Supreme Court, that terrorism suspects must be accorded the rights enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, W. was trying to reward those who helped shred them. He nominated Mr. Haynes to sit on the Fourth Circuit court, the conservative Virginia go-to court for contentious cases on civil liberties and detention of foreign prisoners.

A group of 20 retired military officers sent a letter to Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, expressing “profound concern� about Mr. Haynes and arguing that he promoted policies that “compromised military values, ignored federal and international law, and damaged America’s reputation and world leadership.’’

They asserted that the policies “fostered animosity toward the United States, undermined rather than enhanced our intelligence-gathering efforts, and added significantly to the risks facing our troops serving around the world.’’

Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator who is a military lawyer, a member of the Armed Services Committee and is close to the JAG Corps lawyers, is reported to be opposing Mr. Haynes behind the scenes. Speaking to reporters, he echoed Senator Durbin’s fear that soldiers should not take the fall for superiors’ decisions: “We just need to make sure that what we do in terms of promotion, of a civilian, who was part of policies that have led to military members being prosecuted and having their careers ruined, needs to be thoughtfully considered.�

If all the Democrats are opposed and even one Republican is willing to vote no, the nomination could stall on a 9-to-9 vote. If it is reported to the full Senate, the Democratic leader, Harry Reid, warned, Democrats might try to filibuster it.

When Alberto Mora, the former Navy general counsel, recently won the Kennedy Foundation “Profiles in Courage’’ award for trying to warn Mr. Haynes and others that unleashing dogs for psychological torture and turning America into a law unto itself would hurt the nation, he said this:

“Cruelty disfigures our national character. It is incompatible with our constitutional order, with our laws, and with our most prized values. Cruelty can be as effective as torture in destroying human dignity, and there is no moral distinction between one and the other.�

He easily summed up something that the president, vice president and their toadies can’t seem to fathom: “Where cruelty exists, law does not.�

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