Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Above the Law: How Bush Became the Torture President

Thanks, Ted Rall

Bush pokes fun at the concept of international law in those instances in which he is in clear violation of it but supports it when it suits his own malevolent, imperial purposes. Bush was outraged recently when Iran took British sailors into custody. This is the same Bush who pokes fun at those laws that clearly apply to him.

“International law? I better call my lawyer.”

Who is the bigger hypocrite -Bush or his poodle, Tony Blair? Bush regards the UN Charter ban on aggressive war a "...goofy experiment". Multilateralism, he calls it. But Blair, who should have known better, bowed low to help Bush attack and invade Iraq. Blair knew that there were no WMD to be found. He knew that Bush was lying. Blair knew that the war against Iraq is and remains a war crime under Nuremberg, US Codes, and Geneva. So disdainful of any principle of justice that might apply to Der Führer, Bush insisted that the US Congress exempt him from US laws.

It is not only the war of aggression against Iraq that dogs Bush, it is US torture at Abu Ghraib, GITMO, and throughout the "secret" Eastern European archipelago.
Every single underpinning of law that restrains the conduct of the government in dealing with detainees, they are destroying. And what are they leaving in its place? Chaos. They're looking for a way to justify torture.

-Scott Horton, a New York City bar association expert
It's hard to tell just how long Bush has been trying to put himself above the law, to exempt himself and his evil henchmen from torture charges. The year 2004 -a geological age in this nightmare administration that simply will not end -the Bush cabal of gangsters, liars, crooks, henchman and toadies were before the nation's high court, trying to make the case that Bush was above the law, specifically, he could not be prosecuted for war crimes if he should order torture. Was he planning to? Had he, in fact, already done so and sought to cover his ass ex post facto?

At that hearing, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked:
Suppose the executive says, 'Mild torture we think will help get this information.' ... Some systems do that to get information."
The answer from government lawyer, Paul Clement, was most surely disingenuous: Declaring that Bush would not, he insisted that the US would stand by its international commitments. In other words, the known liars would have the high court believe them when they had lied so many times before. It had been over a year that Justice Department and Pentagon lawyers crafted, nay, conspired to get around the international prohibitions against torture. Bluntly, they conspired to put Bush above the law. George W. Bush, they said, could legally authorize torture.

In December 2005 the U.S. Congress passed the McCain amendment to the Detainee Treatment Act, a result of an admission by Alberto Gonzales that the Bush administration did not regard laws and treaties prohibiting cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to be applicable to prisoners in U.S. custody outside the United States. Aside from the fact that the admission reeks of "loophole", it led to additional disclosures about a secret gulag archipelego of US torture and detentions centers. The McCain amendment was meant to close this loophole, explicitly stating that “no individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”

But, Bush made a preemptive move to pardon himself, issuing a "signing statement" indicating that interrogation restrictions could be waived ".. if the president, as commander-in-chief, thought the waiver would assist in preventing terrorist attacks." I submit that legalizing torture, placing a dictator wannabe above laws applicable to everyone else, guarantees that terrorism will increase. Throughout his incompetent and criminal administration, George W. Bush has handed terrorists a cause on a plate. Just as terrorism against the United States increased exponentially under Ronald Reagan, the final numbers will prove that, once again, terrorism has gotten worse under the GOP.

By September 2006, the Defense Department issued a new Army Field Manual that applied the Geneva Conventions to all detainees, not just those classified as prisoners of war. The new manual also banned specific interrogation techniques or other controversial methods, such as using dogs to threaten detainees, placing prisoners in solitary confinement for long periods, and waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning.

But the following month, Bush struck again. He signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006, granting immunity to any U.S. officials accused of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees during the period prior to passage of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. That just happened to have been the period in which the very worst abuses took place. How bloody convenient that criminals and perverts can get the law changed to excuse them, after the fact, for knowingly committing crimes that were known to be crimes at the time they commit them.

And, as if to ensure that torture will continue, this draconian measure allows evidence obtained through coercion prior to 2005 to be be admitted into trial if a military judge finds it "reliable and serving the interests of justice". The words "justice" and "torture" in the same sentence makes this "law" bogus on its face. Besides -torture does not serve the interests of justice. It subverts them. My head swims.

What has America become? A rogue nation. A criminal enterprise. A poke in the eye to anyone who might, in these most horrible of times, revere the principles of justice. Bush has plunged the world into a new dark age of religious superstition, hate, torture, and endless war.

In any case, there is absolutely no credible evidence that torture works. None! Moreover, the most prominent practitioners of torture, Torquemada and Richard Topcliffe, were perverts whose methods were chosen for purposes of personal gratification. Torture opponents argue persuasively that throughout history torture has proven itself ineffective as a means by which reliable information is derived. The Nazi Gestapo discovered that tortured resistance fighters rarely gave accurate information under torture. Anyone who is tortured will simply tell his/her tormentor whatever they want to hear. Would you want to be convicted upon a tale exacted under such duress? Would Bush himself support torture if, under torture, Dick Cheney spilled the beans about 911?

Besides, even information obtained through torture must be verified. A time consuming task. What is gained but perverted gratification? The U.S. Army’s Field Manual notes:
Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.
Even the FBI favors a more effective technique, that of eliciting a suspect’s cooperation.

Critics have said that torture is a "...slippery slope" which opens the door to worse abuses. But, the issue here is greater even than torture. The methods by which torture has become the law of the land typify a lawless and illegitimate administration. At last, torture, in this context, is but one of many abuses when a regime runs amok, when the government rides roughshod over the rule of law. Bush has become a rogue "President", an illegitimate and unaccountable regime.


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daveawayfromhome said...

Of all the many issues that I've had with the Bush Administration, this has been the one that's pissed me off the most. While I can listen to counter-arguements on everything else they've done, and at least say, okay, I can sort of see where you're coming from, even if I think it's complete bullshit, this one I cannot. Torture is an absolutely immoral action on the part of BushCo, and even marginal support on the part of Americans shows how morally bankrupt our nation has become.

Unknown said...

Indeed, Dave. You are right. In most cases, even issues on which I disagree, there are two or more sides and arguments. As you point out, there is no logical, practical or moral argument in favor of torture. Nothing justifies it. As you say, it is a measure of America's descent into moral bankruptcy.

Batocchio said...

Nice analysis. It really pains me that torture is even being debated — still — and that the folks who have the most power are the most clueless and obstinate. But then, that's the Bush adminstration in a nutshell.

The Rall cartoon reminds me of The Trial of Lucullus by Brecht, actually - that general character of his always does.

Unknown said...

Batocchio said...

The Rall cartoon reminds me of The Trial of Lucullus by Brecht, actually - that general character of his always does.

Thanks for the heads up on Brecht's "Trial of Lucullus". I have not read or seen a production of it. But anyone who can write:

A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook.

has got to be OK with me. It's among my favorite quotes.

Batocchio said...

That is a great Brecht line! He had many. Although honestly, The Trial of Lucullus is not his best or most subtle, even if it's relevant. As I recall, basically the General Lucullus is tried in the afterlife for his crimes. He's indignant because he views himself as a hero, and thus was justified in killing all the people he did, including many innocents. Brecht basically takes on "the Great Man" defense. It was originally written as a radio play.

SadButTrue said...

"In most cases, even issues on which I disagree, there are two or more sides and arguments."

That is the sign of a functioning intellect - to be able to hold two opposing viewpoints in one's mind long enough to give them both due consideration, and then to determine by fact and argument which is superior. This is a process with which the conservative mind seems totally unfamiliar. They prefer to make up their mind first, prior to the gathering or analysis of any relevant information.

It doesn't seem to be working very well for them.

Unknown said...

Batocchio said...

Brecht basically takes on "the Great Man" defense. It was originally written as a radio play.

That is a concept worth producing again. I have always missed radio drama. At one point, I got involved in helping produce Telemachus Clay (Lewis J. Carlino) for radio broadcast. Radio is a great medium for drama but sadly, low cost formula formats are cheaper and, alas, it's all about big bucks.

SadButTrue said...

They (conservatives) prefer to make up their mind first, prior to the gathering or analysis of any relevant information. It doesn't seem to be working very well for them.

They will work backward from conclusions to premises. Magellan could not possibly have sailed around the world because it is known that the world is flat.