Leader Blues

Thursday, July 20, 2006

EDITORIAL>>Vote no on judge

While he is at it, Sen. Pryor needs to stand up to the president and the neoconservative lobby this week on one other issue, this one where his posture is absolutely critical. It is President Bush’s appointment to a federal appellate court of William Haynes II, the author of some of the most repugnant legal opinions in the nation’s history.

Haynes was the general counsel in the Defense Department, where he secretly helped craft the legal justifications for holding and torturing men and women captured in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. His opinions declared detained American citizens to be “enemy combatants” who were outside the protections of the Bill of Rights and American or international laws.

His opinions, sent down through the ranks, gave a green light to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other secret prisons that have sickened Americans and brought world condemnation. The U. S. Supreme Court has stepped in to assert that the Pentagon and intelligence agents had to observe the U. S. Constitution and the international treaties to which the United States was a signatory. Now the president wants to reward one of the men who were responsible for undermining the country’s international esteem and influence with a position on the second highest court in the land. He would sit on the 4th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Richmond, where the gravest violations of the rules of war are tried. It is hard to imagine a practitioner more unfit for such a job.

Twenty retired military officers, including the retired colonel who was Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, have condemned the appointment and called on the Senate to reject it. They said Haynes had “compromised military values, ignored federal and international law and damaged America’s reputation and world leadership.”

That is good reason for Sen. Pryor to exercise his newfound power as a ringleader of the 14 moderate Republican and Democratic senators who have worked for a third way in the bitter partisan struggle over judicial appointments. Here is one where Republicans and Democrats alike can find the common ground of law and human rights.