The Next Step


So we continue to discuss the torture report. *sigh* I’d like to think that we’ll be taking steps to do something about this, but we won’t; certainly not in a court of law. But allow me to discuss what I’d like to see in the next few years.

First off, if we don’t already have an independent, special prosecutor/team of such people investigating this with an eye toward filing charges, then we should.

Second, assuming there is enough evidence to go forward (and with Cheney bragging on TV about how we tortured people, I think this is likely), then charges need to be filed against everyone who was involved in this at all levels. Everyone from the CIA personnel who carried out the torture (and no, “I was just following orders” still isn’t a valid defense), on up to anyone who approved it being used to anyone who participated in covering-up it’s use. This would certainly include Cheney, probably Bush, and maybe Condeleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, among others.

Now I do want to emphasize that these people stand accused of, and in Cheney’s case have admitted to, breaking American laws. I’m not even looking at the international aspect of this.

It is also worth remembering that we don’t actually have a choice, legally, about prosecuting them. We signed several treaties about things like torture, and under the guidelines of those treaties (which carry the force of law in the USA), we are legally required to prosecute.

Once that’s all done, and we’ve finished with the trials, we then should turn over any evidence and suspects to an international war crimes tribunal. Yes, this in theory means that an ex-American President would be facing trial in a foreign court. If we don’t do this voluntarily, then I suggest the various national courts of other countries start going after those involved. This means things like extradition requests and the like.

Lest this come off as something partisan (and how being against torture can be a partisan issue is beyond me), allow me to state clearly that I think everyone involved in the torture and cover-up should face criminal charges. This means that if there is evidence Obama helped in the cover-up, then Obama should also face charges.

I’m completely in favor of a scorched earth policy here. It’s terrible, but so is what we did. We need to own up to that, and we need to face the consequences, otherwise this country we all love will be one of the nastier things on Earth: a rogue nation outside international laws.

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The Origins of Torture


So during the Bush years the United States became a nation that used torture. It’s illegal under US and international law, sullied our image in the eyes of the world, violated 200+ years of legal history and tradition in this country, was covered-up by people who clearly knew that it was illegal, and, worst of all for some people’s views, it didn’t even work.

You might ask yourself, as I have, how exactly we came to be the kind of country that thinks torture is acceptable. Well, have a look at this article from Slate, which will clear up some of your questions.

You know, the more that I think about it, the more it’s clear that Bush and company knew this was illegal. Given that, I’m wondering why they didn’t just go to Congress and have a law passed saying they could torture people. If it’s such a good, effective, vital weapon in the war on terror, this should have been a no-brainer, especially in the days after 9/11. But that didn’t happen. Instead we used torture against people who weren’t nearly as dangerous to us as the Nazis were, and we didn’t torture them. In fact, as I’ve pointed out before, we put Japanese officers on trial and killed them for doing to our troops what we did to (sometimes innocent), people.

I’ve given up any real hope of Bush and company going to trial for this. They should. But since no one wants to do it, I’d at the very least like there to be a truth and reconciliation committee. This committee would be empowered to investigate anything and everything connected to torture, and evidence they unearth would not be allowed to be used in courts. As a result, none of the people who turned us into a torture nation would be legally punished, but their acts would be dragged out into the light and we would all have to face up to the crimes done in our names.

But since that won’t happen either…the best I can probably hope for realistically is that fifty years down the line Bush ends up at the bottom of the list of effective presidents, with a legacy as repudiated as that of, say, Andrew Johnson. One can dream.

George W Bush – Officially a Criminal


Unindicted criminal, George W Bush.

George W Bush, former president and current criminal, has admitted that he authorized the torture of prisoners in US custody. Torture is illegal under the laws of the United States and under international law. It doesn’t matter why you do it, or that we haven’t been attacked by terrorists since then. It’s illegal. Pure and simple.

So of course this brings up the question of whether or not waterboarding is torture. Of course it is. You’d have be an idiot to claim it’s not. We executed Japanese officers who did it to our troops during World War II. The Viet Kong did it to John McCain and it was certainly torture then.

I think we can all agree it’s torture. Torture is illegal under US law. Bush said he authorized his people to do something that’s illegal. I’m no great legal scholar, but I believe this is described as engaging in a criminal conspiracy, right? Since it crossed state lines, it’d be a federal crime.

This sounds like I’m being twee or overly partisan here, but this is actually a very serious question. Bush has admitted to breaking the law. Let me restate this. A former United States president, a civilian under our system, has admitted he broke the law. Bill Clinton broke the law and was prosecuted for far less. Why shouldn’t Bush be prosecuted?

Yes, Bush was president, but so what? We’ve always held in this country that the president is not above the law, and should not be. Bush did what he thought was right and correct at the time, and that’s fine and dandy. But what he did, what he has admitted to doing was flat-out illegal. So why shouldn’t he be prosecuted?

Of course I’m not naive. I know he won’t ever be and it’s because he was president and despite what we like to pretend, we do view presidents as being above the law. Plus there’s no way it wouldn’t be painful and lead to a lot of political crap.

But we still need to do it. I wrote about this last year and here’s what I said then:

Now of course there are those who say this would be tough for our nation; that it might “tear us apart”. That was part of the logic Ford used when he pardoned Nixon, after all.

But you know what? Yeah, it’d be tough for our country, but that’s not a bad thing. We need to know what was being done in our name and if it was illegal, the people who were doing it need to be brought to justice. Just because Bush and Cheney were high-level officials that doesn’t excuse their behavior. You are not above the law because of your position in this country. Just like how Nixon should’ve been tried, so should Bush and Cheney and others (if there is sufficient evidence, of course).

The message must be sent that you are not above the law no matter who you are or what you do for a living. If the former President and the former Vice-President broke the law, they should be punished as any other American would be, period. Anything else is simply unAmerican.

It was true then, and it’s true now.

Feeling Lazy


I’m lazy today. So here’s a fun video. Tomorrow I’ll have a review of the new Harry Potter film and then a review of the new G I Joe film. Until then, enjoy this!

Assume It’s True


Newly released memos indicate that, yes, the US government did in fact use torture against terror suspects in our custody. Well, at least we’d call it torture if other countries were doing it, like we did when Japan used the same techniques against our soldiers during World War Two. When we do it, it’s apparently not, or so the Bush administration would have had us believe.

These memos are appalling and probably the best “smoking gun” evidence we could have that the Bush White House violated the law and several treaties by allowing these torture methods to be used. Which leads to an interesting question.

Let’s assume these memos are true. Let’s assume the Bush White House approved torture for various prisoners, despite it being illegal. Let’s assume the worst-case realistic scenario: that Bush and company knew this was illegal and got various memos written up to try and work-around the law. Assume all this and answer the question: what now?

If Bush and company authorized things any reasonable person would know to be torture I would say that the only reasonable, fair and right course of action would be criminal prosecution. Yes, I’d approve charging Bush, Cheney, et al with criminal, felony offenses. Why not? They clearly broke the law and when you do that, you’re supposed to be charged and put on trial, right?

Now of course there are those who say this would be tough for our nation; that it might “tear us apart”. That was part of the logic Ford used when he pardoned Nixon, after all.

But you know what? Yeah, it’d be tough for our country, but that’s not a bad thing. We need to know what was being done in our name and if it was illegal, the people who were doing it need to be brought to justice. Just because Bush and Cheney were high-level officials that doesn’t excuse their behavior. You are not above the law because of your position in this country. Just like how Nixon should’ve been tried, so should Bush and Cheney and others (if there is sufficient evidence, of course).

The message must be sent that you are not above the law no matter who you are or what you do for a living. If the former President and the former Vice-President broke the law, they should be punished as any other American would be, period. Anything else is simply unAmerican.

The Last Few Hours


As I write this we’re in the last full day of the Bush presidency. Tomorrow at noon Eastern Time, Obama will be sworn in as our next president.

I have nothing further to say about the catasrophe that has been the Bush presidency. Right after 9/11 there was so much potential and good will from the entire world and it was wasted, all wasted. We have a president now who got us into a pointless war in Iraq based on scant evidence, screwed up that war, decided that Constitutional rights don’t apply to everyone and at least indirectly sanctioned torture. Bush believes history will vindicate him. It won’t.

Tomorrow I’ll be blogging during Obama’s inaguration speech. Whether you’re Democrat, Repblican or other, I hope you’ll take time from your day to join me and watch as the worst presidency of my life time (and bear in mind, I was alive during the last part of Nixon’s years), comes to an end.

Oh, and a quick word on the “So help me God”, part of the presidential oath. It’s not required. It’s not in the Constitution. Some presidents have used it and some haven’t. I don’t care if Obama chooses to use it, but I do care if the Chief Justice says it first expecting Obama to repeat it.

Bush’s Farewell


So this is hardly news at this point, but back on Thursday George II gave his farewell address to the nation (not a moment too soon). I’d meant to parse it up then, but I was too busy with other things, so I’ll do it now.

Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school.

Problem. Afghanistan is still a nation where the Taliban and al Qaeda run amuck and women are still stoned in the streets! It’s not a young democracy fighting terror, it’s a young democracy on the verge of going back to being a terrorist state because we took our eye off the ball and got distracted by Iraq.

Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States.

I’m sure a great many Iraqis today would consider themselves a sworn enemy of America. I’ll wager it’s a lot more than did so before we invaded. It’s a borderline democracy at best, and hardly a friend.

There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil.

Yes, and I wore black socks today and failed to get cancer. Also, from 1993 to 2001 we had no foreign terrorist attacks on US soil. Also, prior to 1993 we had none. There’s plenty of room for debate about the results of Bush’s efforts. He’s made this country far less safe with massive bungling and alienating our allies.

The battles waged by our troops are part of a broader struggle between two dramatically different systems. Under one, a small band of fanatics demands total obedience to an oppressive ideology, condemns women to subservience, and marks unbelievers for murder.

Yes, but under our Constitution, people like Fred Phelps and the other, less radical types like Anne Coulter are still allowed their right to say and believe as they please.

You know, the irony to that joke is the sentence that follows it.

The other system is based on the conviction that freedom is the universal gift of Almighty God, and that liberty and justice light the path to peace.

Translation: “They’re a bunch of religious fanatics, but, thank Almighty God, we aren’t!”

Every taxpayer pays lower income taxes.

Actually, I pay more, but that’s largely due to the fact that, unlike most Americans, my income has gone up considerably. Anyhow, massive tax cuts have contributed to a $10,000,000,000,000 deficit. I’d hardly be bragging about that.

Vulnerable human life is better protected.

Translation: “I’ve done every thing I can to destroy Roe v Wade.”

Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. There are things I would do differently if given the chance.

Savor this moment, people. Savor it! This is the closest we’ll get to him ‘fessing up to his failures.

I’ve often spoken to you about good and evil, and this has made some uncomfortable.

Yes, it does, because you see things in this stupid, naive little black-and-white viewpoint where we’re always good and right and our enemies are totally evil, with no room for compromise. You lack pragmatism and that’s a major problem.

Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere.

So what is it when we kill innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan? True, it isn’t (usually), intentional, but still.

Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right.

Oh, that’s what it is when we do it!

President Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” As I leave the house he occupied two centuries ago, I share that optimism.

Technically, I believe the house Jefferson occupied was burned down by the Brits during the War of 1812. But I get what he’s saying, so I’ll give this a pass.

We see it in Julio Medina, a former inmate who leads a faith-based program to help prisoners returning to society.

Would we see it (“it” being American character), had this former inmate gone on to lead a reason-based program to help prisoners returning to society? (additional story)

We have faced danger and trial, and there’s more ahead. But with the courage of our people and confidence in our ideals, this great nation will never tire, never falter, and never fail.

This I generally agree with. Except that, well, we might fail despite our greatness. Still, cheerleader-in-chief, remember? (link)

And I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other – citizen of the United States of America.

No problem here and something I agree with completely! For all its many, many flaws, I still love this country. The difference between me and many others is that I want the flaws noticed so that we can work on eliminating them and making our nation even better.

And so, my fellow Americans, for the final time: Good night. May God bless this house and our next President. And may God bless you and our wonderful country. Thank you.

Again, I still wonder why it boils down to “God bless America” and not “God bless everyone,” but whatever.

All in all not a horrible speech, but it still shows the incredible myopia Bush has in regards to his failures. He thinks history will vindicate him. It won’t. I’ll bet all the money I have right now ($2.14), that within twenty years he’s still in the bottom fourth of American presidents, if not at the bottom.

Oh, well. Clear the decks! Here comes the new guy! 🙂