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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Monday, November 07, 2005

John Kline is Soft on Torture

Abu Ghraib.

Extraordinary rendition.

Guantanamo Bay.

And in the past few days, we've learned that the CIA has maintained so-called 'Black Sites' all over the world for more than four years now, where prisoners are held indefinitely, and are routinely interrogated using extreme methods such as waterboarding.

What does the White House have to say about this? George Bush today proclaimed 'we do not torture' prisoners, even while the White House continued its vigorous opposition to legislation which would make it illegal for any U.S. authority to torture any prisoner, anywhere. Actually, Bush's statement was more than a little Orwellian:

We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice. We are gathering information about where the terrorists may be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do ... to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law. We do not torture.

That's simple enough. If the U.S. does it, it must not be torture!

But, this blog is supposed to examine John Kline's record. And what is Congressman Kline's record on torture? Well, when the Abu Ghraib photos were first made public, John Kline had this to say:

Anger, outrage, disgust, embarrassment – these are just a few of my immediate reactions upon viewing the still unreleased photos of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. What I saw went far beyond the acceptable limits of human decency. What I saw was a failure of discipline, leadership, and the standards of conduct which all Americans – and especially the members of our U.S. Armed Services – value so dearly.

All who have seen the photos – and many who have not – are unanimous in their resolve that something must be done. Responsibility must be taken, and punishment – severe punishment – must be assigned.

The photos of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison reveal an environment void of accountability and supervision. We have an adage in the military: “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” Just as the young men and women serving in our military have a responsibility to carry out orders given by their superiors, those superiors have a responsibility to ensure orders are carried out properly and clear guidance is given. For either of them to fail to live up to their obligation is at minimum a dereliction of duty. At its worst it is criminal.

Strong words, indeed. In fact, this is exactly the kind of reaction I would expect from a 25-year Marine Corps veteran who worked closely with both presidents Carter and Reagan. The trouble is, they're only words, and they were written almost 18 months ago now.

John Kline is a member of the U.S. Congress, and not just any member of Congress. He sits on the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel & Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities, which puts him in a strong position to sponsor legislation to insure that everyone who represents America in an official capacity, whether they be a member of the armed forces or the CIA, lives up to the ideals America holds dear.

Only so far, he hasn't.

Contrast this silence with the actions of another Republican, a Senator, who also has a distiguished record of military service. John McCain, himself subjected to torture in Vietnam, is adamant that U.S.-sponsored torture of prisoners stop, and stop now. More than a month ago, McCain attached an amendment to a defense spending bill --- an amendment supported by every member of the Senate, save for 9 Republicans --- which would require all American operatives to adhere to the interrogation guidelines laid out in the Army Field Manual (which do not include, say, sodomizing prisoners with fluorescent lights). In fact, McCain has done more than that. Opposed by a recalcitrant White House, McCain has vowed to attach his amendment to every piece of legislation to come out of the Senate, until it becomes law.

It is ironic that John McCain campaigned vigorously for John Kline when Kline was running against incumbent Bill Luther. In fact, in a November 2, 2000 article in the Star Tribune, Kline spokesman Randy Skoglund emphasized the parallels between McCain and Kline, claiming that the two have common ideologies and background. "John McCain and John Kline have similar traits - people see them as people who tell the truth", Skoglund said.

Sorry Mr. Kline, but you're no John McCain. When McCain first attached his amendment to the defense bill, I challenged Mr. Kline to carry McCain's fight into the House of Representatives, and see to it that the job of restoring America's honor was done. So far, I have received no response from Mr. Kline, either by email or post (which reveals a bit about Mr. Kline's responsiveness to his constituents, but that's a story for another time).

A search of his congressional web site turns up no mention of the McCain amendment or torture, and a review of the Congressional Record shows that Kline has discussed torture exactly once in the past 9 months --- when on June 16 he denounced Amnesty International's reports of U.S. torture as 'unfounded'. Mr. Kline, your silence speaks volumes.

While searching the Congressional Record, I did find one other interesting statement by Mr. Kline. He had just returned from a tour of Iraq to give an optimistic assessment of our progress there. He saw fit to quote a man he says is his hero, Ronald Reagan, who said:

Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.

Sadly, it appears that John Kline doesn't realize that the reverse is also true.

Update: On December 12, Kline publicly came out in favor of McCain's amendment, albeit in the least forceful possible manner.

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