We’re working to elect leaders who believe in service

Contribute Now→

PETITION: Say NO to Kavanaugh

As Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Federal Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh begin, I’m writing to shine a light on an issue that may not get as much coverage as others but speak no less to the very core of our shared American values: the use, and shameful legal justifications of, enhanced interrogation techniques.

Stripped of political spin, “enhanced interrogation” means torture. Torture is expressly prohibited under the Third Geneva Convention, one of many post-World War II agreements codifying baseline (minimum) standards of conduct waging war. The collection of these international agreements and governing documents are today commonly known as the Law of War.

The Third Geneva Convention primarily addresses the treatment of prisoners of war. As a legal workaround, memorialized in the “Torture Memos,” the Bush Administration, including the nominee, referred to detainees as “enemy combatants.” Moral implications notwithstanding, this distinction was intended to absolve the Administration of its responsibility to follow the law.

I first learned about the Law of War and the Rules of Engagement when I joined the Army in Basic Training, long before seeing any combat in theatre. Later, serving as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer, I taught soldiers before their own overseas combat deployments that violating the Rules of Engagement only serves to prolong deployments, endanger American lives, and hurts the overall mission.

I saw it happen in Iraq. Following a horrific rape and murder committed by American soldiers near the Iraqi city of Mahmudiyah, the entire vicinity surrounding the city became a no-fly zone. No American, regardless of their intentions, was safe from retaliation. For a helicopter pilot, new operational parameters around the no-fly zone meant longer routes, increased exposure and greater risk. Shortly thereafter, when three American soldiers went missing, ISIS claimed responsibility and posted on a jihadist website to “remember what you had done in this area.” Failure to adhere to legal and moral standards by some had deadly consequences for our brothers-in-arms.

Demonstrating sharp political instincts, Brett Kavanaugh’s purposeful career trajectory has placed him at the epicenter of some of the most controversial political events in our lifetime. He was on Ken Starr’s special investigation staff, worked as a Bush lawyer in Florida during the 2000 recount, and following successful stints in the White House in the counsel’s office and as Staff Secretary, was confirmed to the Federal Court of Appeals in 2006.

These political instincts, however, do not appear to correlate with a strong moral compass. When asked by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) during his appellate court confirmation hearings when Kavanaugh first learned about the Bush Administration’s use of torture, he replied, “I think with respect to the legal justifications of the policies relating to the treatment of detainees, I was not aware of any issues on that or the legal memos that subsequently came out until the summer, sometime in 2004 when there started to be news reports on that. That was not part of my docket, either in the [White House] counsel’s office or as [White House] staff secretary.”

Twelve years later, that turns out to be untrue. Last month, following a meeting with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Durbin reported that Kavanaugh “confirmed to me today that he was involved with internal Bush Administration discussions about litigation and policy regarding the detention of enemy combatants.”

Opposing torture isn’t a partisan issue, it’s an American value. Exhibiting moral flexibility for political expediency should disqualify any Supreme Court nominee. Kavanaugh’s false claim that he first learned about his White House’s stance regarding torture by reading it in the newspaper helped him gain his first lifetime appointment to the Federal bench. That lie should not be rewarded with a second one and a seat on our highest court.

Join me and say NO to Brett Kavanaugh >>>


James Mackler