Things are looking good for former Bush administration officials. You wouldn't think this would be the case, looking at some of the news stories that have come out after they'd packed up their stuff and left the White House. But that'd be because you think rationally; that doesn't fly in DC anymore. Post-Bush, the nation's capital is still dominated by denial.
Sure, Bush was an abuser of the law and -- under the paranoiac Dick Cheney's guidance -- played a little fast and loose with legalities. But that doesn't mean he actually broke the law and, since we don't know for sure, we should probably forget the whole thing. When it comes to anti-Constitutional behavior, human rights abuses, and war crimes, it's probably best to ignore things -- no one wants to open up that whole can of worms. We used to say that no one was above the law, now we worry that upholding the law might be inconvenient or embarrassing. As it is now, some people are above the law -- but only if those people are members of the Bush administration.
Outside the US, people don't get this. They insist on bringing this stuff up over and over. Out in the big, wide world, they just don't get that the Bush administration gets a pass for anything and everything, because to do otherwise would be bad politics. Forgive and forget. Look forward, not backward. Let's move on. Some people don't get the simplicity of solving a problem by pretending it never happened.
Take David Crane, an international law professor at Syracuse University. As a former UN prosecutor, Crane is a citizen of that big, wide world and doesn't see things through the lens of political expediency and an insular American media. For Crane, the United States is not a separate planet in its own orbit and things that happen in one nation inform and set precedent for things that could -- and sometimes should -- happen in other nations.
In Crane's world -- which, admittedly, is that part of the world that isn't the US -- a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir means that other leaders could be held accountable for their crimes.
Crane says that the Bashir warrant "may even be extended to the former president George W. Bush, on the grounds that some officials in terms of his administration engaged in harsh interrogation techniques on terror suspects which mostly amounted to torture." Turns out that when something's a war crime for one leader, it's a war crime for all leaders.
But has the US actually tortured? We've called what we did "enhanced interrogation techniques." So it can't be torture, because we didn't call it that. Of course, the fact that we've "enhanced interrogation techniqued" people to death kind of puts a ding in that argument.
"[Prisoners] were handcuffed to fixed objects above their heads in order to keep them awake," reads the [Church report]. "Additionally, interrogations in both incidents involved the use of physical violence, including kicking, beating, and the use of 'compliance blows' which involved striking the [prisoners] legs with the [interrogators] knees. In both cases, blunt force trauma to the legs was implicated in the deaths. In one case, a pulmonary embolism developed as a consequence of the blunt force trauma, and in the other case pre-existing coronary artery disease was complicated by the blunt force trauma."
When you've got people dying because of your interrogation techniques, "enhanced" is an understatement. I'd also point out that interrogations are approached from a position of ignorance -- there are things you want to know, which is the entire purpose of the interrogation, and this means there are things you don't know. Among those things, you might reasonably include whether or not the subject knows anything more than you do and whether or not they're actually a terrorist. While many would argue that a terrorist deserves anything they get, not many would argue that we should punish a crime with torture or that we should punish a prisoner for a crime we don't know they committed. The assumption of guilt isn't justice.
But that's all logic and logic is a tool of that big, wide world. It's been banished from the separate planet that is the United States. Our government can do anything to anyone, because that's how they've kept us safe. Logic would dictate that if your government can do anything to anyone, then it can do anything to you, and this doesn't exactly make you safe from your government. Luckily for Bush and Cheney, logic doesn't fly here.
If it did, they might worry about a report on a UN probe of "secret" CIA prisons. I put "secret" in quotes because they're the worst-kept secret the US has -- everyone knows about them.
Of the prisons, Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, said, "We call on all governments to cooperate, not just in clarifying the facts, but in ensuring that such secret detention centres will no longer be used in the future." His colleague Martin Scheinin, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism, went further, calling them "one of the most horrendous practices" that the Bush administration instituted after 9/11.
I'm guessing that Scheinin didn't know about this:
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh dropped a bombshell on Tuesday when he told an audience at the University of Minnesota that the military was running an "executive assassination ring" throughout the Bush years which reported directly to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The remark came out seemingly inadvertently when Hersh was asked by the moderator of a public discussion of "America's Constitutional Crisis" whether abuses of executive power, like those which occurred under Richard Nixon, continue to this day.
"It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently," Hersh said. "They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. ... Congress has no oversight of it."
"It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on," he continued. "Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us."
I think the word you're looking for is "murder." When we weren't enhanced interrogating people to death, we were doing it the easy way -- with an assassin's bullet in their head. Hersh says he's collecting enough evidence to convince "even the most skeptical."
But, as I said, we don't live in the big, wide world where any of this is a problem. We live on Planet America, where the severity of a crime depends on the political convenience of that crime's prosecution. And prosecuting Bush, Cheney, and other former White House officials would be extremely inconvenient -- especially for a Democratic congress that refused to lift a finger while all of this was going on. There were no investigations into these international crimes and talk of impeachment was positively taboo. As a result, many of the Democratic congressional leadership are complicit. They may not have liked this stuff, but they allowed it and blocked every attempt to stop it.
And that's why we aren't going to see Bush or Cheney tried. Guilty of war crimes, guilty of murder, they'll make bundles of money speaking to right wing audiences about just how freakin' great they were. There's a truth commission building, but to be absolutely honest, that won't do a damned thing to keep a future group of White House lunatics and paranoiacs from doing exactly the same thing. Nothing short of arrest and trial would do that.
But that's not going to happen here on Planet America, because we want to pretend that the neocons acted alone. A complicit congress of enablers can't be shown for what they were.
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