With little time left before a very likely Democratic Congress and Senate come into power - the President's desperation to avoid culpability for his own War Crimes grows more palpable.
As I outlined on July 1st, the Hamdan decision has effectively sealed this President's fate and legacy as a War Criminal, his last gasp is to end-run Common Article 3, if he can.
To this end the President has pursued the enactment of New Detainee Torture Act, which would effectively make the treatment they've already been using, essentially legal.
Q Thank you very much, sir. What do you say to the argument that your proposal is basically seeking support for torture, coerced evidence and secret hearings? And Senator McCain says your plan will put U.S. troops at risk. What do you think about that?
THE PRESIDENT: This debate is occurring because of the Supreme Court's ruling that said that we must conduct ourselves under the Common Article III of the Geneva Convention. And that Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It's very vague. What does that mean, "outrages upon human dignity"? That's a statement that is wide open to interpretation. And what I'm proposing is that there be clarity in the law so that our professionals will have no doubt that that which they are doing is legal. You know, it's -- and so the piece of legislation I sent up there provides our professionals that which is needed to go forward.
Vague? Vague?!! Common Article III has been in existence for 50 years and this is the first time that I know of that someone has claimed it is - Vague! "No" means "NO" Asshole! Zero. None. Zilch. That statment is not open to interpretation, it's pretty clear and obvious. Those who oppose the Administration on this point, such as Colin Powell are not "confused", they are not "appeasers" -- or let's be honest because we know what they're really thinking - they are not "girly men".
Even Tony Snow has sheepishly begun to admit that he'd gone over the line (via Glenn Greenwald) when he reflexively bashed Powell.
Tony Snow yesterday had to retract his statement calling Colin Powell "confused" all because Gen. Powell thinks the U.S. should continue to abide by the Geneva Conventions, and as part of that retraction, Snow oh-so-generously added: "I know that Colin Powell wants to beat the terrorists, too." They exploit terrorism for political gain so reflexively that accusations of being sympathetic to terrorists just comes pouring out of their character-smearing mouths even when the targets are individuals who have devoted their adult lives to service in the American military.
More from Yesterday's Rose Garden Press Conference:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. If a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State feels this way, don't you think that Americans and the rest of the world are beginning to wonder whether you're following a flawed strategy?
THE PRESIDENT: If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic. I simply can't accept that. It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective, Terry.
Bush may find it "Unacceptable" - but thinking that the United States has an obligation and a duty to abide by it's own law and it's own treaties - is exactly what much of the world thinks. This line of arguement by Bush effectively ducked the question - and follows the path the Administration has been following for quite some time -- attack the critic, not the argument.
Four years ago, then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales urged the President to deny Geneva protections to terrorist detainees, not because they didn't deserve them - but because he expected that doing so would leave The President Vulnerable to War Crimes Prosecution Under U.S. Law
When the President talks now about "providing clarity" such as in this passage:
...the Court said that you've got to live under Article III of the Geneva Convention, and the standards are so vague that our professionals won't be able to carry forward the program, because they don't want to be tried as war criminals. They don't want to break the law. These are decent, honorable citizens who are on the front line of protecting the American people, and they expect our government to give them clarity about what is right and what is wrong in the law. And that's what we have asked to do.
The truth is - that HE doesn't want to be tried for War Crimes because the President, after denying Geneva, has long ago authorized measures which clearly violate the "human dignity" of detainees, and he knows this.
As I stated in July the ACLU has found a paper trail leading directly from Bush to Gitmo and Abu Ghraib.
In January 2002 Gonzales argues that Geneva shouldn't apply to "Enemy Combatants" because it would make "U.S. Officials" vulnerable to Federal War Crimes violations. In February, the Administration announces that al Qaeda and Taliban are "not included" in Geneva (although they conduct no tribunal as required by Geneva to determine this). In August of that same year the Bybee memo is written which redefines what "Torture" is. In October 2002 Gitmo commanders request "that additional techniques beyond those in the field manual be approved for use."" In December of 2002 SecDef Rumsfeld allows for "stress positions," hooding, 20-hour interrogations, removal of clothing, exploiting phobias to induce stress (e.g., fear of dogs), prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, and forced grooming. These techniques soon spread to Afghanistan and later to Iraq." according to documents obtain by the ACLU. Also in December the FBI begins complaining to the Defense Department about the conditions at Gitmo, and in Afghanistan some detainees are "killed during interrogation" at Bagram AFB.
To date we have had 26 Deaths-in-Custody, which have been ruled as "Homocide" due to mistreatment. Those deaths, as well as those of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, lay directly at the feet of George W. Bush.
Everything he is doing right now - trying to push the Geneva redefinition through Congress - is meant to do nothing more than cover his ass, Period.
If he fails, and I'm certain he doesn't intend to fail - he can't afford too - he will face a Democratic Congress with subpeona power and one John Conyers as head of the Impeachment Committee - Judiciary. A man who has already called for Special Prosecutor to investigate War Crimes by the Bush Administration. If that call is ever answered in the wake of Hamdan, Bush is Doomed.
This is his last chance, and I for one expect to see him pull out all stops.
But he MUST. NOT. SUCCEED.
America can not openly go down the road he is headed. We can not turn our backs on Geneva, and begin to play around with the margins human decency, pretending that the use of extreme cold and/or loud music is an acceptable method of treatment - whether you like Red Hot Chili Peppers or not - these can never acceptable methods for how we treat people who haven't been put on trial yet.
Never mind Geneva, the 4th and 8th Amendments makes this clear.
It's not just a matter of protecting American soldiers who may be captured, there is also a military case for this. During WWII many Italian and Germany soldiers surrendered to U.S. - rather than the Russians - because they knew they would be well treated.
The Germans committed Genocide, but not only that they commited War Crimes against American soldiers at Malmedy. U.S. soldiers held by the Japanese were regularly tortured, starved and murdered. Geneva was intended to put an end to this, and the U.S. was at the forefront of creating Geneva.
Even during the first Gulf War, Iraqi military units were very willing to surrender when outmatched rather than fight to the death -- and thus the bloodshed was minimized and victory achieved in a fairly short time. Colin Powell, who command our troops during Gulf War I understands this - George Bush who protected the Texas Skies from the Vietcong - doesn't.
And so came Abu Ghraib.
After which we suddenly we faced an enemy - actually several enemies - that would absolutely do anything - but surrender.
Since then we've had Task Force 6-26 a U.S. Special Forces Unit who used Saddam's old torture chambers to continue the exact same work, Haditha (where 24 civilians were gunned down in cold blood), Fallajah where the U.S. used chemical warfare on the population and the rape and murder of a teenage Iraqi girl and her entire family by U.S. soldiers.
Clearly, we're sliding down the slope - not climbing upwards. Meanwhile, the insurgency and impending Civil War in Iraq continues to get stronger. Going the way we have been - even if we do achieve "Victory", capture and/or kill Osama bin Laden and break up the Al Qaeda Network, we will still have lost and disgarded far more than we will have gained.
This is what Human Rights Watch has to say about it.
Following the terrorist attacks [of September 11], many Americans understandably wanted their government to do anything possible that might protect them from terrorism. The Bush administration exploited that fear to push through various measures with scant regard to international human rights standards. Systematic prisoner abuse, widespread detention without trial, and proposed kangaroo courts were the result. Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, and secret CIA prisons became the unfortunate symbols of U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Even within the United States, the rights of many Muslim men were compromised through the misuse of laws such as those on detaining immigrants and "material witnesses." Governments around the world, in turn, exploited the U.S. government's example to launch or defend repression of their own.This Country has to make a choice: Will we honor the sacrifices made to fight fascism and totalitarianism made by our forefathers by remaining true to the ideals of the 8th Amendment and Bill of Rights -- or will we fail them?
These abuses are wrong as a matter of fundamental rights. Though done in the name of protection from terrorism, they are also counterproductive. Fighting terrorism effectively requires not just stopping existing terrorists but also preventing the generation of new ones. By all accounts, U.S. abuses in the name of fighting terrorism have been a boon to terrorist recruiters. The loss of the moral high ground has made it harder to dissuade angry young men from resorting to the deliberate killing of civilians.
Bush has made it clear which way he intends to go, and it's also clear that this path has made us less safe, not moreso.
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