THE REAL BARBARIANS
April 6, 2008 -- Leftists may hope to smear Bush folks with a just-released 2003 memo that seems to OK "extreme measures" when questioning wartime detainees. But the document better points up the huge moral gap between America and its enemies.
It also highlights the enormous political hurdles America faces in trying to defend itself from a cunning, ruthless foe.
Penned by a then-high-ranking Justice official, John Yoo, the memo argued that citing wartime necessities might sometimes protect military interrogators from criminal prosecution and charges of violating international law.
Which certainly seems arguable - given the morally unfettered nature of America's foes. Nonetheless, Justice rescinded the memo some months later.
Officials made it all public last Tuesday, in response to demands from Democrats like Sens. Carl Levin (Mich.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and the ACLU.
That was but two days after the family of Army Staff Sgt. Keith "Matt" Maupin learned that his remains finally had been identified, four years after he was captured - and murdered - in Iraq.
Maupin, all of 20 at the time, had been guarding a civilian convoy near Baghdad when he came under attack.
A video later seemed to show Iraqi insurgents shooting him in the head and letting him fall into a shallow grave, but officials couldn't confirm it. So Maupin's family and friends in his hometown of Batavia, Ohio, held out hope.
Just as the family of Sgt. Alex Jimenez, of Queens, still hopes for him.
Jimenez's case is especially relevant - for government lawyers may have hampered efforts to track and rescue him after he was kidnapped last May.
All told, they wasted some 10 hours debating whether Iraqi cellphone calls - which might have provided clues to Jimenez's whereabouts - could be tapped, since they traveled through US networks.
It's not likely that Jimenez's kidnappers debated his Geneva Convention rights. Nor did those who slaughtered Sgt. Maupin, leaving his bones in the desert, pay much heed to international law.
Meanwhile, what is it about that Justice memo that Democratic Sen. Joe Biden (Del.) says "shocks the conscience"?
Hmm. Maybe its claim that "an interrogation method that might arguably cross the line drawn in one of the criminal statutes" might nonetheless be defensible in wartime as necessary to protect the nation.
Or that "international law is not federal law" and the president might override it.
Or perhaps: "Employing a shove or a slap [on a prisoner] would not run afoul" of legal requirements.
What's truly shocking is that America could be debating whether to push and slap prisoners who may harbor critical life-saving information, even as its ruthless enemies kidnap US soldiers, shoot them in the head and leave them to rot.
If this country is going to defeat terror, it's first going to have to win the war for common sense at home.