Trials for Torturers

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Re-banning torture is fine – but it’s hardly enough.


Torture is one of those words that is just too easy to say.  The facility with which it slides off the tongue belies its terrible gravity.  

The act of torture is cruelty personified.  It is easily among the most horrific deeds of which we are capable.  What could be worse?  Murder and genocide I suppose…but little else.

The Bush Administration’s Most Despicable Act

“This is not the America I know,” President George W. Bush said after the first, horrifying pictures of U.S. troops torturing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq surfaced in April 2004. The President was not telling the truth.  “This” was the America he had authorized on Feb. 7, 2002, when he signed a memorandum stating that the Third Geneva Convention – the one regarding the treatment of enemy prisoners taken in wartime – did not apply to members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban. That signature led directly to the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. It was his single most callous and despicable act. It stands at the heart of the national embarrassment that was his presidency.

Time Magazine

George W. Bush ordered helpless prisoners to be tortured…and is unrepentant.

This is the same George W. Bush who mocked Karla Faye Tucker as he sent her to die by lethal injection – the cruelest possible form of execution.

In the year following her execution, conservative commentator Tucker Carlson questioned Governor Bush about how the Board of Pardons and Parole had arrived at the determination on her clemency plea. Carlson alleged that Bush, alluding to a televised interview which Karla Faye Tucker had given to talk show host Larry King, smirked and spoke mockingly about her:

In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, “A number of protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Karla Faye Tucker.” “Did you meet with any of them?” I ask. Bush whips around and stares at me. “No, I didn’t meet with any of them”, he snaps, as though I’ve just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. “I didn’t meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with Tucker, though. He asked her real difficult questions like, ‘What would you say to Governor Bush?'”

“What was her answer?” I wonder.

“‘Please,'” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, “‘don’t kill me.'”

I must have looked shocked – ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel – because he immediately stops smirking.

Journalist Carlson followed up on Bush’s remark by reviewing a videotape of the interview on Larry King’s show. Carlson found that Tucker had in fact not uttered the entreaty, “Please don’t kill me” or words to that effect.


Of all George W. Bush’s misdeeds, this one is perhaps the most shocking and offensive to me personally and also the most revealing of his character (IMO).  

Here is a man of great wealth and privilege in a position of extraordinary power.  He in fact had the power of life and death over people from a different planet – at least in terms of the different worlds in which they grew up, and in which they live – and he has no compassion and no mercy.  As Governor of Texas he set a record for death warrants signed at 152.  But the most frightening thing about GWB’s attitude is that it is not an aberration – not within his clan it isn’t…take it from his mom.

“Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose?  Or, I mean, it’s, it’s not relevant.  So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?”

Barbara Bush on ABC/Good Morning America, March 18, 2003

“What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas.  Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.  And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle) – this is working very well for them.”

Barbara Bush, on the hurricane evacuees at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept. 5, 2005


Such sensitivity.  Such compassion.  With a mother like that, who can blame W for growing up to be a psychopath?  The problem is that the rightwing repubs, Bush’s have and have mores, are all psychopaths.  They have no regard for the rest of us whatsoever…and this is nothing new.

The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their ‘vital interests’ are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death: these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the ‘sanctity’ of human life, or the ‘conscience’ of the civilized world.

James Baldwin

The least of the least in the United States are said to be protected from torture by the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.  Of course protecting prisoners hidden away from the world in America’s dark dungeons is easier said than done…especially these days.  We’ve gone backwards America.  Our old Constitution ain’t what she used to be…and our standards of human decency have been slipping badly.

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

With Constitutional scholar Barack Obama at the helm, maybe we will begin to repair that ravaged old icon of American values, the Constitution of the United States of America.  A good way to begin would be to restore our commitment to the rule of law and demonstrate as much by bringing the Bush administration to justice before the world.  Only in this way can we all begin to heal.  We owe this to the planet.

Once again America, the whole world is watching.

Please.  This time…don’t let us down.


Just to be clear, I am very grateful to our new President for the positive steps he has taken so far as I made clear in a recent diary, Thank You Mr. President for Acting on Day 1.

The coward wretch whose hand and heart can bear to torture aught below, Is ever first to quail and start from the slightest pain or equal foe.

Bertrand Russell

The following video does a fine job of putting this issue in context.

History will not treat this kindly.

This video puts you in the shoes of a man who was tortured mercilessly by foreign torturers into whose hands we delivered him.

Testimony of a tortured man.

Here is an excerpt from what I consider a very important article written by the guy who nailed Nixon, John W. Dean (who BTW I found myself with in an elevator at Netroots Nation ’08 in Austin..nice guy, laughed like hell when I told him what OPOL stood for).

Are We Civilized Enough to Hold Our Leaders Accountable for War Crimes? The World Is Watching

Other countries are likely to take action against officials who condoned torture, even if the United States fails to do so.

Remarkably, the confirmation of President Obama’s Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, is being held up by Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, who apparently is unhappy that Holder might actually investigate and prosecute Bush Administration officials who engaged in torture. Aside from this repugnant new Republican embrace of torture (which might be a winning issue for the lunatic fringe of the party and a nice way to further marginalize the GOP), any effort to protect Bush officials from legal responsibility for war crimes, in the long run, will not work.

John W. Dean at Alternet

John Dean says they cannot run and they cannot hide.  I sure hope he’s right.  This disgraceful flaunting of the rule of law and the minimum standards of human decency must not be allowed to stand.  There are too many future lives and too much future suffering at stake.

“The line that connects the bombing of civilian populations to the mountain removed by strip mining … to the tortured prisoner seems to run pretty straight. We’re living, it seems, in the culmination of a long warfare — warfare against human beings, other creatures and the Earth itself.”

Wendell Berry

The Mystery of the Missing Pardons

Many of us were wincing in the lead up to the inauguration in anticipation of a slew of presidential pardons for Bush and all his cronies and subordinates which never came.  Many were mystified, I among them.  But it seems we may have simply forgotten some pertinent recent history, one small provision of one odious piece of Bushco legislation aswim in an ocean of the hideous acts of a highly complicit congress.

Protections from criminal and civil prosecutions for previous instances of alleged torture

Two provisions of the MCA have been criticized for allegedly making it harder to prosecute and convict officers and employees of the US government for misconduct in office.

First, the MCA changed the definition of war crimes for which US government defendants can be prosecuted. Under the War Crimes Act of 1996, any violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions was considered a war crime and could be criminally prosecuted. Section 6 of the Military Commissions Act amended the War Crimes Act so that only actions specifically defined as “grave breaches” of Common Article 3 could be the basis for a prosecution, and it made that definition retroactive to November 26, 1997. The specific actions defined in section 6 of the Military Commissions Act include torture, cruel or inhumane treatment, murder, mutilation or maiming, intentionally causing serious bodily harm, rape, sexual assault or abuse, and the taking of hostages. According to Mariner of Human Rights Watch, the effect is “that perpetrators of several categories of what were war crimes at the time they were committed, can no longer be punished under U.S. law.”[32] The Center for Constitutional Rights adds:

The MCA’s restricted definitions arguably would exempt certain U.S. officials who have implemented or had command responsibility for coercive interrogation techniques from war crimes prosecutions.

This amendment is designed to protect U.S. government perpetrators of abuses during the “war on terror” from prosecution.


So has congress already pardoned all of the war criminals and torturers?  And if so, will this shameful ex post facto law stand?  

Are we, as John Dean has asked, civilized enough to hold our leaders accountable for war crimes?  

If the answer is no, the world will weep and America will continue its downward spiral…and with any luck at all, some other more honorable nation will step in and pick up our slack – and see to it that justice is done.


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    • OPOL on January 27, 2009 at 22:13
    • Temmoku on January 29, 2009 at 04:24

    charges and trials should have been put up years ago.

    Lying is not Bush’s only crime—he needed to be Impeached.

    But I’ll settle for a trial.

    A little excoriation wouldn’t hurt him either.

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