Hawkish on Gonzales

Published February 2, 2005 1:04AM (EST)

The New York Times reported late today that debate in the Senate over the record of Alberto Gonzales has pushed back Gonzales' expected confirmation as the next attorney general at least until Thursday.

Earlier we pointed out the lengthy list of organizations fiercely opposed to Gonzales' becoming the nation's top law enforcement official -- but it's also well worth noting that the brigade of angry voices denouncing Bush's nominee is not limited to the political left.

As the stories of systematic abuse inside U.S. military prisons from Cuba to Iraq continue to pile up -- including recent allegations of sexual torture carried out by female U.S. interrogators -- Boston Globe columnist and war hawk Jeff Jacoby has joined the chorus of critics opposed to Gonzales.

"I strongly support the mission in Iraq. I voted for President Bush. I believe the struggle against Islamist totalitarianism is the most urgent conflict of our time.

"But none of that justifies the administration's apparent willingness to countenance -- under at least some circumstances -- the indecent abuse of prisoners in military custody. Something is very wrong when the Justice Department advises the president's legal adviser that a wartime president is not bound by the international Convention Against Torture or the U.S. laws incorporating it. Or when that legal adviser tells the Senate, as Alberto Gonzales did last week, that 'there is no legal prohibition under the Convention Against Torture on cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment with respect to aliens overseas.'"

The Democrats may have put on a bit of a show today, but they don't have the numbers to stop Gonzales from taking over the Justice Department. Jacoby no doubt realizes this. And he reserves his deepest fury for those who backed Bush's grand rallying cry to depose a brutal tyrant and export the humane values of democracy to the Middle East yet remain silent now.

"If this were happening on a Democratic president's watch, the criticism from Republicans and conservatives would be deafening," Jacoby writes. "Why the near-silence now? Who has better reason to be outraged by this scandal than those of us who support the war? More than anyone, it is the war hawks who should be infuriated by it. It shouldn't have taken me this long to say so."

By Mark Follman

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

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