President George Bush, betrayed by the neoconservatives
whom he elevated to power and by his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, who
gave him wrong legal advice, is locked in a desperate struggle with the Republican
Congress to save himself from war crimes charges at the expense of America's
reputation and our soldiers' fate.
Beguiled by neoconservatives, who told him that the virtuous goals of the American
empire justified any means, and misled by an incompetent attorney general, who
told him that the president of the U.S. is above the law, Bush was deceived
into committing war crimes under Article 3 of the Geneva Convention and the
U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996. Bush is now desperately trying to save himself
by having the U.S. Congress retroactively repeal both Article 3 and U.S. law.
Under the U.S. Constitution, retroactive law is without force, but desperate
men will try anything.
President Bush has given no thought to the impact on America's reputation of
his strident campaign to write torture into U.S. law. He has given no thought
to what saving himself means for captured U.S. troops if the U.S. government
guts Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
How could he care? This is the same president who prevented the world from
intervening to stop Israel's slaughter of Lebanese civilians. This is the same
president who describes tens of thousands of slaughtered Iraqi and Afghan civilians
as "collateral damage." What sort of war is it when civilian casualties
far outnumber casualties among combatants?
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was used by Bush to lie to the
UN in order to create a pretext for Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq, denounced
Bush's attempt to repeal Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Powell said Bush's
proposal causes the world to "doubt the moral basis of our fight against
terrorism" and will "put our own troops at risk." Republican
Senators John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham agree with Powell, although
their arms may yet be twisted out of their sockets.
Bush's claim that America cannot fight the "war on terror" without
employing torture is just another Bush lie. It is a known fact that torture
produces unreliable information. Torture can make people talk, but it cannot
make them give reliable information.
Very few of the tens of thousands of "suspects" that the U.S. has
detained are guilty of anything. We know this because the U.S. Iraqi Command
says that 18,700 Iraqis have been released since June 2004. U.S. officers told
the International Red Cross that 70
to 90 percent of the Iraqi detentions were "mistakes."
Most of these mistakes were people who were simply pulled out of their beds
or grabbed off streets as "suspected insurgents," victims of military
sweeps akin to the KGB street sweeps of the Stalin era, which resulted in so
many Soviet citizens disappearing into the gulag. Others were sold to naive
Americans by warlords who collected a bounty for turning in "terrorists."
When innocent people are tortured, they invent information in order to stop
the pain. Sometimes they settle a score with a personal enemy or someone they
dislike by giving their name. People who experienced Soviet torture and survived
say they tried to remember names of deceased persons to identify as "enemies
of the state."
An actual terrorist or insurgent who believes in his cause is not going to
give accurate information. If his torturers demand information on a pending
attack, he will give the wrong location. If they demand the identities of his
group, he will give the wrong names. He is worth very little as an information
source, because his colleagues, aware that he is captured or missing, will change
plans and arrangements.
The U.S. military has not learned anything from torturing detainees and continues
to lose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan despite its widespread use of torture.
Lying is now a full-time occupation for U.S. military spokespersons as well
as for President Bush. Lt. Col. Keir-Kevin Curry, a spokesman for U.S. military
detainee operations in Iraq, says that every detainee "is detained because
he poses a security threat to the government of Iraq, the people of Iraq or
coalition forces." President Bush says, "These are enemy combatants
who are waging war on our nation." Someone needs to tell Bush and Curry
that what they allege cannot be true if 70-90 percent of detainees are mistaken
detentions and 18,700 detainees have been released in the last 14 months.
Baghdad shopkeeper Amjad Qassim al-Aliyawi is a good example. He languished
in detention limbo for 20 months without charges and without apology when released.
Many studies have concluded that people who go into interrogation and police
work are bullies who like to exercise power and hurt people. Bush is willing
to make such people even less accountable in order to protect himself from war
If Bush were a real man, he would fire Gonzales and the neocons. He would say
he was given bad advice, and regrets that he didn't know better than to follow
it. He would order closed all the secret prisons, end the illegal policy of
rendition, and order that all U.S. military detention facilities be run in strict
accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
This would serve Bush and America's reputation far better than his attempt
to legalize torture.