Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Grinning Criminal in Our Midst

Maureen Dowd's column today is a stinging round-up of how the partisan right views things in light of the GOP's taking back the House in Congress. The piece is reportedly written by her conservative brother Kevin, but it's a bit difficult to tell whether Dowd's just having us on (or whether the NYTimes should add another Dowd to their opinion's a brilliant set of observations/parodies?/who knows). The one that really stung the most, though, was:
To President Bush : A 50-to-42 winner over Obama in a mock presidential poll in Ohio after doing absolutely nothing. A Nobel Prize is on the way.
As soon as the Nobel committee creates a new category for advances in State-Sponsored Torture, yes, I'm sure Bush will be at the top of their list.

In case you've been lucky enough to miss it, the former President has been on TV (that grin still makes me cringe) flogging his memoir in which he admits that he personally approved the use of torture. Of course he's still insisting that waterboarding isn't torture, but everyone else, including the current President of the United State say he's wrong about that. The rest of the civilized world in fact, agrees that waterboarding IS torture, and that it's internationally illegal:
The 26-year-old United Nations Convention Against Torture requires that all parties to it seek to enforce its provisions, even for acts committed elsewhere. That provision, known as universal jurisdiction, has been cited in the past by prosecutors in Spain and Belgium to justify investigations of acts by foreign officials. But no such trials have occurred in foreign courts.

Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said, "Waterboarding is broadly seen by legal experts around the world as torture, and it is universally prosecutable as a crime. The fact that none of us expect any serious consequences from [Bush's] admission is what is most interesting."
Reportedly (I have no intention of reading it) in his memoir, Bush recounts
being asked by the CIA whether it could proceed with waterboarding Mohammed, who Bush said was suspected of knowing about still-pending terrorist plots against the United States. Bush writes that his reply was "Damn right" and states that he would make the same decision again to save lives. [emphasis mine]
This "saving lives" excuse Bush is waiving around isn't the airtight "get out of jail free card" moral defense he seems to thinks it is. In at least one example he's citing it's not even historically accurate:
British officials said today there was no evidence to support claims by George Bush, the former US president, that information extracted by "waterboarding" saved British lives by foiling attacks on Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf. In his memoirs, Bush said the practice – condemned by Downing Street as torture – was used in CIA interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the US.

He said Mohammed, below, was one of three al-Qaida suspects subjected to waterboarding. "Their interrogations helped break up plots to attack American diplomatic facilities abroad, Heathrow airport, and Canary Wharf in London, and multiple targets in the United States," he wrote.

It is not the first time information extracted from Mohammed has been claimed as helping to prevent al-Qaida attacks on British targets. Mohammed cited attacks on Heathrow, Big Ben and Canary Wharf in a list of 31 plots he described at Guantánamo Bay after he was subjected to waterboarding 183 times following his capture in Pakistan in March 2003. The Heathrow alert in fact happened a month before his arrest, with army tanks parked around the airport, in what was widely regarded as an overreaction. [emphasis mine]
Despite his own statements that waterboarding is Torture, you have to believe that Obama had reassured Bush he would be protected from prosecution before he admitted he approved it.
M. Cherif Boussiani, an emeritus law professor at DePaul University who co-chaired the U.N. experts committee that drafted the torture convention, said that Bush's admission could theoretically expose him to prosecution. But he also said Bush must have presumed that he would have the government's backing in any confrontation with others' courts.

Georgetown University law professor David Cole, a long-standing critic of Bush's interrogation and detention policies, called prosecution unlikely. "The fact that he did admit it suggests he believes he is politically immune from being held accountable. . . . But politics can change."
Change....and we're back to Hope again.

I'm sure Obama felt that offering assurance was the right thing to do back when he believed he would lose all chance of collaborating with the GOP on the issues important to getting the nation back on track after the near collapse, like health care and financial reform, if he prosecuted Bush. As it's obvious now that the GOP has no intentions whatsoever of working together, I think Obama should stand up for what he obviously believes and now prosecute Bush as the criminal he's admitted to being.

Labels: politics, torture


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So nice to see his hour of prime time with Matt Lauer on (for now anyway) GE owned NBC was a ratings BUST.

Americans want nothing to do with his public quest for rehabilitation no matter how they voted last week.

----ondine nyc

11/10/2010 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11/10/2010 01:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama now has the option of assassinating American citizens abroad if he deems it necessary for national security. That makes torture seem pretty minor in comparison.

11/10/2010 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It makes having torture be "legal" in the US seem pretty minor, but makes actually torturing someone just as problematic.

I for one am beyond sick and tired of Americans scrambling behind moral equivalency arguments to stop them from having to condemn something unpleasant (because that would make them face their own complicity and cowardice). Approving the actual torture of a human being was a monstrous decision by Bush and he should be roundly condemned for it, in any and all contexts.

11/10/2010 05:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edward, if Obama does not do what he knows is right are you going to start roughing him up more in posts? Obviously if Obama does not take action he must be of the same mind-set as Bush in secret.

11/10/2010 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I don't expect Obama to do anything actually.

He probably already sees that if he goes after Bush, he'll spend the rest of his term being investigated (more than the GOP already plans to) and that eventually they'll find something (the job's too complex to cross every t and dot every i).

My goal in getting Bush to own up that he made a mistake is not because I don't understand the impulse that led him to approve torture. In the heat of the battle I get it. It's not brave of him, but I never expected bravery of him.

But for him or anyone to argue that it should be legal, and then hide behind that, is a whole other matter.

The moral irreprehensibleness and utter idiocy here is the suggestion that this torture was OK because its targets were such bad men. But that is simply moronic. The act of torture doesn't define its defines the torturer.

Bush is arguing it's OK for the US to be a nation that approves of torture, thereby defining us as self-absorbed and cowardly monsters in my opinion. He can't be allowed to do that without a fight.

11/11/2010 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

He can't be allowed to do that without a fight.
At a Minimum, which is all we'll have a chance for, is for the civilized thinkers among us to wage that fight. So many feel there is no issue, it's ok, move on.
I ultimately feel our ideal/democracy takes a huge hit if we don't follow thru and settle this issue preferably by trial.
This podcast on the show Speaking of Faith is worth listening to.

11/11/2010 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

apparently an investigation is not so out of the realm of possibility:

GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz Willing To Investigate Bush For Torture: I Have No ‘Hesitation Whatsoever’

11/11/2010 10:55:00 AM  

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