Matthew Waxman has fought at the Pentagon for the last two years — unsuccessfully but heroically — to get the Department to stop condoning any form of prisoner handling that approximated “torture or inhumane treatment.”
Waxman has been arguing for the spirit and law of the Geneva Conventions. He has fought for the same language for which Senator John McCain has been valiantly fighting. He has been trying to make “real” the kind of hard-to-believe assurances and promises by Condoleezza Rice this last week in Europe that America does not torture its detainees or condone it elsewhere.
But now, according to the New York Times, this champion of conscience hired to undo the damage done by Abu Ghraib is being transferred out of the Pentagon and over to the State Department — which despite John Bolton — is assembling an impressive team.
The problem is that Rumsfeld is at Defense, and the Pentagon has about 15 times the budget of the State Department.
From the Times:
The Pentagon’s chief adviser on detainee issues is leaving to take a high-level policy job at the State Department, administration officials said on Saturday.
The adviser, Matthew C. Waxman, will become the principal deputy director of the department’s policy planning staff, said administration officials who were granted anonymity because Mr. Waxman’s new job had not been officially announced.
Since filling a position created nearly two years ago to help correct the damage caused by the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, Mr. Waxman has repeatedly clashed with top aides to Vice President Dick Cheney and senior Pentagon officials. These have included Stephen A. Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence policy, and William J. Haynes II, the department’s general counsel, who have pushed to limit the rights of terror suspects and other detainees.
Several weeks ago, David S. Addington, who was then Mr. Cheney’s counsel, assailed Mr. Waxman during a briefing, objecting to his insistence that a new set of Pentagon standards for handling terror suspects adopt language from the Geneva Conventions barring cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment.
I’m hoping that Matthew Waxman finds the courage to find a way to share what he knows about the detainee abuse issue and how some of the practices that have made their way into our system were promulgated and condoned by senior officials. This information would dovetail nicely with material already shared by former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson.
But in the mean time, let me send BARBARA BUSH a friendly note.
Mrs. Bush, please take note of who is naughty and nice.
Matthew Waxman has been nice — and has helped your son’s administration even though it has given him virtually no support in doing so.
In contrast, David Addington, Stephen Cambone, and William Haynes really deserve our whole-hearted derision for the nefarious practices that they have promoted in their respective roles.
Mrs. Bush, if you are working to oust a few people at the White House in January and February, please add these three to the list — and when visiting your son and daughter-in-law, make sure you have Matthew Waxman over to the White House for a drink, and make sure Addington sees you.
— Steve Clemons