No queremos Gonzales

By Mark Follman

Published January 24, 2005 6:32PM (EST)

Two days before the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Alberto Gonzales' nomination for U.S. attorney general, there is a rising chorus of opposition that includes some prominent Hispanic voices. The first Hispanic Air National Guard officer appointed as an adjutant general in the United States, Maj. Gen. Melvyn Montano (Ret. USAF National Guard), and two Hispanic Stanford Law School professors have joined the watchdog group Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) in formally opposing the Gonzales nomination.

"Opposition to a presidential nominee is a rare step for our organization -- a step we have only taken once before in our 27-year history," said Michael Posner, executive director of Human Rights First, in a press release. "Mr. Gonzales is a talented and experienced lawyer. He has an inspiring personal history. But Mr. Gonzales helped to open the door to abuses that have undermined discipline in the military, put American fighting men and women at greater risk, and denied the United States the moral high ground."

From the Human Rights First statement against Gonzales out today:

"Some have argued that it is unfair to blame Mr. Gonzales for the torture, cruelty, and death inflicted on individuals in U.S. custody overseas. As Mr. Gonzales repeatedly said at his confirmation hearing, setting interrogation policy was 'not my job.' Clearly there are other officials who also bear responsibility for these actions. But no one disputes that Mr. Gonzales rejected the applicability of essential provisions of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan, and that he endorsed interrogation methods that law enforcement and military experts advised were unlawful, and that many senior military officers reject today. Mr. Gonzales reaffirmed these views in his statements before the Senate -- telling Senators that he agreed with the conclusions of the memo reducing the definition of torture to meaninglessness, and suggesting that the President could ignore laws if he thought they unconstitutionally infringed on his powers as Commander-in-Chief. We evaluate Mr. Gonzales based on his own actions, and his own words. And it is on this basis we oppose his nomination."

Maj. Gen. Montano urged lawmakers to not fall prey to concerns about being labeled anti-Hispanic. "Like Judge Gonzales, I know what it feels like to be the first Hispanic to be named to an important leadership position in this country," said Montano, a Vietnam veteran who served 45 years in the military, including 18 years in a command position. "I welcome the prospect of more Hispanics serving in leadership positions in the government, and I respect Judge Gonzales' inspiring personal story. But given Gonzales' record, senators who are afraid to vote against his confirmation for fear of being labeled anti-Hispanic are doing themselves and their constituents a grave disservice."

HRF also has an analysis of Gonzales' record, testimony at the confirmation hearings and his answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee's follow-up questions, here.

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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