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Sunday, Nov. 13, 2005 9:41 PM

With the one-two punch of Vice President Cheney seeking an exemption to Senator John McCain's amendment banning cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of prisoners, followed by the revelation that the CIA has been running several clandestine prisons, the President, while on his recent trip to Panama, commented that we will aggressively pursue terrorists, but we'll do so under the law, and, he was quick to point out, "We do not torture."

And yet, we have directives from the Pentagon that may have led to abuses at Abu Ghraib, and legal counsel from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that laws against torture are not applicable to those detained as enemy combatants.

We talk of not allowing the terrorists to change our way of life. Why, then, are we running so hard and so fast to trash some of our hallmark American (and democratic) values? If anyone is working to break America's will, it's the folks who are exhorting us to do things that, in our saner moments, we find wholly unacceptable.

Consider that if I, as a private citizen, thought it was okay, was just, was necessary to torture a suspected enemy combatant until he turns over all his terrorist buddies, their terrorist girlfriends, their wives, daughters, grandmothers, and pet goldfish. I'd like to think the government would be there to say, "We can't do that."

Instead, the Bush Administration is keeping true to a slogan from Mr. Bush's gubernatorial campaign: junta los podemos.

Together, we can.

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