The hypothetical question Bush can't answer

What if other countries took it upon themselves to redefine the Geneva Conventions' protections?

Published September 15, 2006 3:51PM (EDT)

At a Rose Garden press conference this morning, NBC's David Gregory asked George W. Bush the obvious hypothetical question: How would he feel if a foreign government like, say, North Korea's or Iran's, captured a U.S. soldier or CIA officer, subjected him to torture, then tried and convicted him with evidence he wasn't allowed to see?

Bush didn't -- Bush couldn't -- answer the question.

"My reaction is that, if the nations such as those you named adopted the standards within the [White House's] Detainee Detention Act, the world would be better," he said.

Gregory pressed on what he called the "important point," the same point Colin Powell made this week in his letter opposing Bush's plan. "I know you think it's an important point," Bush snapped back. But he said "the most important point" was the rather unlikely one he was making -- that U.S. intelligence officers will have to stop interrogating detainees entirely if they don't have more clarity on the outer limits of the coercive techniques they can use.

Gregory pressed one more time, at which point Bush cut him off and said "next man."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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