11 05 2008

Well, it’s official.  In an interview with ABC news, White House resident George Bush said, …”yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue (using torture). And I approved.”  Bush has implicated former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Justice Department attorney John Yoo, former Pentagon official Douglas Feith, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Colin Powell,  and former CIA Director George Tenet, as well as current junta members Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice, as co-conspirators in his torture ring.

Also implicated as having known about and approved the junta’s use of torture on prisoners was Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as leading Senate Democrats Diane Feinstein and Charles Schumer, who voted to approve Michael Mukasey as the new Attorney General, even though he as much as condoned torture during his confirmation hearing.

And then we have the case of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who, in an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, had the following conversation with journalist Leslie Stahl:

LESLEY STAHL: If someone’s in custody, as in Abu Ghraib, and they are brutalized by a law enforcement person, if you listen to the expression, “cruel and unusual punishment,” doesn’t that apply?


LESLEY STAHL: Cruel and unusual punishment?

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA: To the contrary. You think—you think that you would—has anybody ever referred to torture as punishment? I don’t think so.

LESLEY STAHL: Well, I think if you’re in custody and you have a policeman who’s taken you into custody—

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA: And you say he’s punishing you?


JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA: What’s he punishing you for? You punish somebody—

LESLEY STAHL: Well, because he assumes you, one, either committed a crime—


LESLEY STAHL: —or that you know something that he wants to know.

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA: Ah, it’s the latter. And when he’s—when he’s—when he’s hurting you in order to get information from you—


JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA: —you don’t say he’s punishing you. What’s he punishing you for? He’s trying to extract—

LESLEY STAHL: Because he thinks you’re a terrorist, and he’s going to beat the you-know-what out of you.

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA: Anyway, that’s my view. And it happens to be correct.

There’s a name for the kind of discourse you just heard.  It’s called “sophistry,” which Webster’s Dictionary defines as “ssubtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation.”  They weren’t being punished, so it can’t be called “cruel and unusual punishment.”  We were just trying to get information from them, so it was OK.  Yeah, right.  Let’s apply that standard to Scalia and listen to him squeal.

So here’s the deal. According to British attorney and law professor Phillippe Sands,

“the Geneva Conventions are absolutely clear: there are no circumstances in which torture is permitted. And if the account is accurate, the President is, in effect, owning up to the fact that he has committed a war crime. And under the torture convention, there is an obligation to investigate any person who has committed a war crime.”

But…who can do it?  The Bush junta isn’t going to investigate itself, especially for hanging crimes.  The Democrats are compromised.  The Supreme Court would just laugh, if Mr Scalia is any measure–and unfortunately, he probably is.  Phillippe Sands says there are justice departments and judges in Europe who are outraged by the junta’s conduct, and quietly laying the groundwork for prosecution, although I’m not holding my breath about extradition….hmm, how ’bout “extraordinary rendition”?  Sauce for the goose, eh?

Did I say hanging crimes?  Yes, although I’m not out to hang anybody.  The US government prosecuted Germans and Japanese government officials for approving torture policies.  Most received prison terms, although Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was hung.  Condi Rice is the US official <!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } -whose government position is most analagous to von Ribbentrop’s. Wanna dance, Condi?

Of course, the Nazis were responsible for the deaths of millions, in concentration camps and on battlefields, and the Bush junta has only been responsible for the death of about one million Iraqis, mostly by accident as “collateral damage,” so you could argue that their crimes have not been as reprehensible as the Nazi atrocities.  But hey, when he was Governor of Texas, Bush let plenty of people fry for just one murder.  Shouldn’t he get what he gave?

Naah.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.  Here’s a couple of ideas.

One:  We’ll let them play “Survivor.”  Put America’s leading war criminals on a low-lying tropical island in the monsoon belt, guard it to make sure nobody gets in to “rescue” them, and check in once a year to see who’s left.  We can confiscate their wealth, since they mostly stole it, and use it to make amends to the Iraqis and everybody else they harmed in their scramble to the top.  Whoever is left alive after ten years gets to spend the rest of their life doing some court-ordered activity to help society.

Two:  Put them in re-education camps.  Real ones, not ones where they get tortured.  Keep hammering them with what their policies have done for most people, but also use various psychological means to break down their selfish personalities and enable them to become the people they could be….hey, I can dream, can’t I?

music: Mickey Hart’s Mystery Box, “The Next Step”




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