19 January 2005

bush pushed for torture

we know that it's not just a few bad apples - at least 137 members of the military have been charged with abusing prisoners. we know there is a relation between the torture and the presence of major general geoffrey miller. we know some other names, too: stefanowitz, jordan, cambone. plus the presence of shadowy CIA "contractors" such as CACI and titan.  no one who has been paying even slight attention believes this was something "cooked up by the night shift" as the schlesinger whitewash has it.

and some of us have known all along about the school of the americas curriculum.

but whose bright idea was it to blow off the geneva conventions and start torturing EPWs of the "global war on terror"?

sure, given his personal history and personality, we've kind of suspected all along that dubya himself was one of the voices pushing to "get medieval on the evildoers."  but after watching condi's testimony today, i'm positive.

here's why: i went back and watched condi's exchange with senator dodd over the torture issue. in the CSPAN video (part 2) it's right about 2h28m in.  dodd has just asked if she would share what advice she gave the president.  she declines, and while trying to weasel out of the question says,

He came out in a place that I think was consistent with both living up to our international obligations, and allowed us to recognize that the Geneva Conventions should not apply to a particular class of people.
my emphasis in bold.  surely i'm not the only one who can read between the lines here.  she is describing dubya's position when the question of interrogation methods and conditions for suspected al qaeda prisoners arises.  "allowed us to recognize" is primo sycophant-speak, implying that one's boss is such a genius that his questions gave all-new insight into the problem at hand while providing the "correct" answer - in this case that any ideas about human rights and international law should be dispensed with for these prisoners.

once the boss had made it clear what he wants, it was up to lawyers like jay bybee, michael chertoff and of course faithful bush lackey alberto gonzales to come up with some pettifoggery to give this course of action some legal cover.  gonzales had just the chops for that mission, after all he had covered for enron at vinson and elkins, and came up amazingly empty-handed on death-row clemency requests working for "the butcher of texas" in austin.  this crowd would later argue that the US base at guantanamo bay, cuba, was a sort of extralegal jurisdiction to match the extralegal definition of detainees as enemy combatants.

so guantanamo was the perfect place to get the horror-show on the road.  the word went down through rummy and stephen cambone to get the boss the results he wanted.  experienced CIA torturers helped general miller set up shop and process the detainees.  not enough information seems to have come from gitmo to even indict, much less convict, any of the prisoners.  but somehow the operation was deemed such a success that when those awful saddam-loving terrorists in iraq wouldn't come clean and show their liberators where they had hidden the WMDs, general miller was dispatched to abu ghraib prison on the outskirts of baghdad to gitmo-ize the operation there.

and then along came steven jordan, and steven stefanowicz, and charles graner, and lynndie england, and... well the rest is history.  too bad we can't be sure it's really history, given the administration's double-talk on the subject.

Update [2005-1-19 2:17:55 by zeke L]: one more thing from the testimony: condi said a couple times that they believed extending humane treatment to possible al qaeda detainees "would have weakened geneva" by overextending the law to... poking its nose where... judicial activism... um, no, that sounds semi-rational but when i try that viewpoint i can't come up with any intelligible principle to make sense of it.

what they're trying to claim is that they captured these guys in afghanistan, and they were irregular soldiers for al qaeda or the taliban. and so sorry mister mujahedi but your taliban leadership never got around to signing the geneva conventions like all the civilized nations, so you're just SOL. and if you were with al qaeda, that's not even a country by golly, so you're double SOL.

here's why that's wrong: the geneva conventions and the international conventions against torture are not the kind of law you should be trying to nickel-and-dime. and whether these are bad guys (and they're not as bad as the nazis) is not the point. that's because the geneva conventions are not laws about them, they're laws about us. the reason they were passed in the first place was that the "civilized" nations of the world decided to renounce the barbarism of the past. the idea was for them to be universal, and to get every nation to sign on. so geneva and international torture law are stronger when extended to the most people and applied whenever the situations they address arise. cutting a particular category of people off from them weakens geneva, not the other way around.


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