Sunday, May 27, 2007

Cheney attacks the Constitution?

Such a headline would warrant an impeachment, no? But of course it's not true. Michael Roston has another shocking headline: Cheney criticizes the Geneva Conventions in Military Academy commencement address. The Raw Story ran it, and Andrew Sullivan repeated the allegation here. Of course, it's not true, as is easily verified by reading a transcript of the actual speech.

The Vice-President's speech mentioned the Conventions exactly once:
As Army officers on duty in the war on terror, you will now face enemies who oppose and despise everything you know to be right, every notion of upright conduct and character, and every belief you consider worth fighting for and living for. Capture one of these killers, and he'll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States. Yet when they wage attacks or take captives, their delicate sensibilities seem to fall away. These are men who glorify murder and suicide. Their cruelty is not rebuked by human suffering, only fed by it. They have given themselves to an ideology that rejects tolerance, denies freedom of conscience, and demands that women be pushed to the margins of society. The terrorists are defined entirely by their hatreds, and they hate nothing more than the country you have volunteered to defend.
One really must (forgive the term) torture a common sense reading of the speech to find a criticism of the Conventions. Cheney merely stated an undisputed fact, that terrorist killers demand Geneva and constitutional protections. It's in Al Qaeda training manuals, for pete's sake.

Cheney spoke of the Convention and the U.S. Constitution in the same sentence and in the same manner, because in both cases the question hinges not on the validity of the law, but on the applicability of some of its clauses to this group of people. If one posits that illegal immigrants should not be eligible for Social Security, that is an indictment of illegal immigrants, not the Social Security system. The link between the two bodies of law is revealing: neither Roston nor Sullivan tried to claim that Cheney was "criticizing" the Constitution of the United States, either because so obvious a lie would be more glaring, or because, in their minds, slagging an international treaty is a bigger travesty than trashing the Constitution (which the VP explicitly swore to uphold, twice), or both.

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