W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility.
Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the
eyes of the world.
promised to "restore honor and integrity to the
White House." Instead, he has brought deep dishonor
to our country and built a durable reputation
as the most dishonest President since Richard
He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention.
Just as he would not honor the United Nations,
international treaties, the opinions of our allies,
the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson
described as "a decent respect for the opinion
of mankind." He did not honor the advice, experience
and judgment of our military leaders in designing
his invasion of Iraq. And now he will not honor
our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even
by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins.
did we get from September 12th , 2001, when a
leading French newspaper ran a giant headline
with the words "We Are All Americans Now" and
when we had the good will and empathy of all the
world -- to the horror that we all felt in witnessing
the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib.
begin with, from its earliest days in power, this
administration sought to radically destroy the
foreign policy consensus that had guided America
since the end of World War II. The long successful
strategy of containment was abandoned in favor
of the new strategy of "preemption." And what
they meant by preemption was not the inherent
right of any nation to act preemptively against
an imminent threat to its national security, but
rather an exotic new approach that asserted a
unique and unilateral U.S. right to ignore international
law wherever it wished to do so and take military
action against any nation, even in circumstances
where there was no imminent threat. All that is
required, in the view of Bush's team is the mere
assertion of a possible, future threat - and the
assertion need be made by only one person, the
disturbing still was their frequent use of the
word "dominance" to describe their strategic goal,
because an American policy of dominance is as
repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly
dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners
has been to the American people. Dominance is
as dominance does.
is not really a strategic policy or political
philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion
that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger
for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain.
And as always happens - sooner or later - to those
who shake hands with the devil, they find out
too late that what they have given up in the bargain
is their soul.
of the clearest indications of the impending loss
of intimacy with one's soul is the failure to
recognize the existence of a soul in those over
whom power is exercised, especially if the helpless
come to be treated as animals, and degraded. We
also know - and not just from De Sade and Freud
- the psychological proximity between sexual depravity
and other people's pain. It has been especially
shocking and awful to see these paired evils perpetrated
so crudely and cruelly in the name of America.
pictures of torture and sexual abuse came to us
embedded in a wave of news about escalating casualties
and growing chaos enveloping our entire policy
in Iraq. But in order understand the failure of
our overall policy, it is important to focus specifically
on what happened in the Abu Ghraib prison, and
ask whether or not those actions were representative
of who we are as Americans? Obviously the quick
answer is no, but unfortunately it's more complicated
is good and evil in every person. And what makes
the United States special in the history of nations
is our commitment to the rule of law and our carefully
constructed system of checks and balances. Our
natural distrust of concentrated power and our
devotion to openness and democracy are what have
lead us as a people to consistently choose good
over evil in our collective aspirations more than
the people any other nation.
founders were insightful students of human nature.
They feared the abuse of power because they understood
that every human being has not only "better angels"
in his nature, but also an innate vulnerability
to temptation - especially the temptation to abuse
power over others.
founders understood full well that a system of
checks and balances is needed in our constitution
because every human being lives with an internal
system of checks and balances that cannot be relied
upon to produce virtue if they are allowed to
attain an unhealthy degree of power over their
then to the balance of internal impulses described
by specialist Charles Graner when confronted by
one of his colleagues, Specialist JosephM. Darby,
who later became a courageous whistleblower. When
Darby asked him to explain his actions documented
in the photos, Graner replied: "The Christian
in me says it's wrong, but the Corrections Officer
says, 'I love to make a groan man piss on himself."
happened at the prison, it is now clear, was not
the result of random acts by "a few bad apples,"
it was the natural consequence of the Bush Administration
policy that has dismantled those wise constraints
and has made war on America's checks and balances.
abuse of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib flowed directly
from the abuse of the truth that characterized
the Administration's march to war and the abuse
of the trust that had been placed in President
Bush by the American people in the aftermath of
was then, there is now and there would have been
regardless of what Bush did, a threat of terrorism
that we would have to deal with. But instead of
making it better, he has made it infinitely worse.
We are less safe because of his policies. He has
created more anger and righteous indignation against
us as Americans than any leader of our country
in the 228 years of our existence as a nation
-- because of his attitude of contempt for any
person, institution or nation who disagrees with
has exposed Americans abroad and Americans in
every U.S. town and city to a greater danger of
attack by terrorists because of his arrogance,
willfulness, and bungling at stirring up hornet's
nests that pose no threat whatsoever to us. And
by then insulting the religion and culture and
tradition of people in other countries. And by
pursuing policies that have resulted in the deaths
of thousands of innocent men, women and children,
all of it done in our name.
Bush said in his speech Monday night that the
war in Iraq is "the central front in the war on
terror." It's not the central front in the war
on terror, but it has unfortunately become the
central recruiting office for terrorists. [Dick
Cheney said, "This war may last the rest of our
lives.] The unpleasant truth is that President
Bush's utter incompetence has made the world a
far more dangerous place and dramatically increased
the threat of terrorism against the United States.
Just yesterday, the International Institute of
Strategic Studies reported that the Iraq conflict
" has arguable focused the energies and resources
of Al Qaeda and its followers while diluting those
of the global counterterrorism coalition." The
ISS said that in the wake of the war in Iraq Al
Qaeda now has more than 18,000 potential terrorists
scattered around the world and the war in Iraq
is swelling its ranks.
war plan was incompetent in its rejection of the
advice from military professionals and the analysis
of the intelligence was incompetent in its conclusion
that our soldiers would be welcomed with garlands
of flowers and cheering crowds. Thus we would
not need to respect the so-called Powell doctrine
of overwhelming force.
was also in Rumsfeld's planning a failure to provide
security for nuclear materials, and to prevent
widespread lawlessness and looting.
there was a high level of competence on the part
of our soldiers even though they were denied the
tools and the numbers they needed for their mission.
What a disgrace that their families have to hold
bake sales to buy discarded Kevlar vests to stuff
into the floorboards of the Humvees! Bake sales
for body armor.
the worst still lies ahead. General Joseph Hoar,
the former head of the Marine Corps, said "I believe
we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We
are looking into the abyss."
a senior, respected military leader like Joe Hoar
uses the word "abyss", then the rest of us damn
well better listen. Here is what he means: more
American soldiers dying, Iraq slipping into worse
chaos and violence, no end in sight, with our
influence and moral authority seriously damaged.
Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, who headed
Central Command before becoming President Bush's
personal emissary to the Middle East, said recently
that our nation's current course is "headed over
Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Army
Major General Charles H. Swannack, Jr., asked
by the Washington Post whether he believes the
United States is losing the war in Iraq, replied,
"I think strategically, we are." Army Colonel
Paul Hughes, who directed strategic planning for
the US occupation authority in Baghdad, compared
what he sees in Iraq to the Vietnam War, in which
he lost his brother: "I promised myself when I
came on active duty that I would do everything
in my power to prevent that ... from happening
again. " Noting that Vietnam featured a pattern
of winning battles while losing the war, Hughes
added "unless we ensure that we have coherence
in our policy, we will lose strategically."
White House spokesman, Dan Bartlett was asked
on live television about these scathing condemnations
by Generals involved in the highest levels of
Pentagon planning and he replied, "Well they're
retired, and we take our advice from active duty
amazingly, even active duty military officers
are speaking out against President Bush. For example,
the Washington Post quoted an unnamed senior General
at the Pentagon as saying, " the current OSD (Office
of the Secretary of Defense) refused to listen
or adhere to military advice." Rarely if ever
in American history have uniformed commanders
felt compelled to challenge their commander in
chief in public.
Post also quoted an unnamed general as saying,
"Like a lot of senior Army guys I'm quite angry"
with Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush Administration.
He listed two reasons. "I think they are going
to break the Army," he said, adding that what
really incites him is "I don't think they care."
his upcoming book, Zinni blames the current catastrophe
on the Bush team's incompetence early on. "In
the lead-up to the Iraq war, and its later conduct,"
he writes, "I saw at a minimum, true dereliction,
negligence and irresponsibility, at worst, lying,
incompetence and corruption."
book will join a growing library of volumes by
former advisors to Bush -- including his principal
advisor on terrorism, Richard Clarke; his principal
economic policy advisor, former Treasury Secretary
Paul O'Neill, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who
was honored by Bush's father for his service in
Iraq, and his former Domestic Adviser on faith-based
organizations, John Dilulio, who said, "There
is no precedent in any modern White House for
what is going on in this one: a complete lack
of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything,
and I mean everything, run by the political arm.
It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."
Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki told Congress
in February that the occupation could require
"several hundred thousand troops." But because
Rumsfeld and Bush did not want to hear disagreement
with their view that Iraq could be invaded at
a much lower cost, Shinseki was hushed and then
as a direct result of this incompetent plan and
inadequate troop strength, young soldiers were
put in an untenable position. For example, young
reservists assigned to the Iraqi prisons were
called up without training or adequate supervision,
and were instructed by their superiors to "break
down" prisoners in order to prepare them for interrogation.
make matters worse, they were placed in a confusing
situation where the chain of command was criss-crossed
between intelligence gathering and prison administration,
and further confused by an unprecedented mixing
of military and civilian contractor authority.
soldiers who are accused of committing these atrocities
are, of course, responsible for their own actions
and if found guilty, must be severely and appropriately
punished. But they are not the ones primarily
responsible for the disgrace that has been brought
upon the United States of America.
Lynndie England did not make the decision that
the United States would not observe the Geneva
Convention. Specialist Charles Graner was not
the one who approved a policy of establishing
an American Gulag of dark rooms with naked prisoners
to be "stressed" and even - we must use the word
- tortured - to force them to say things that
legal procedures might not induce them to say.
policies were designed and insisted upon by the
Bush White House. Indeed, the President's own
legal counsel advised him specifically on the
subject. His secretary of defense and his assistants
pushed these cruel departures from historic American
standards over the objections of the uniformed
military, just as the Judge Advocates General
within the Defense Department were so upset and
opposed that they took the unprecedented step
of seeking help from a private lawyer in this
city who specializes in human rights and said
to him, "There is a calculated effort to create
an atmosphere of legal ambiguity" where the mistreatment
of prisoners is concerned."
the secrecy of the program indicates an understanding
that the regular military culture and mores would
not support these activities and neither would
the American public or the world community. Another
implicit acknowledgement of violations of accepted
standards of behavior is the process of farming
out prisoners to countries less averse to torture
and giving assignments to private contractors
Bush set the tone for our attitude for suspects
in his State of the Union address. He noted that
more than 3,000 "suspected terrorists" had been
arrested in many countries and then he added,
"and many others have met a different fate. Let's
put it this way: they are no longer a problem
to the United States and our allies."
Bush promised to change the tone in Washington.
And indeed he did. As many as 37 prisoners may
have been murdered while in captivity, though
the numbers are difficult to rely upon because
in many cases involving violent death, there were
dare they blame their misdeeds on enlisted personnel
from a Reserve unit in upstate New York. President
Bush owes more than one apology. On the list of
those he let down are the young soldiers who are
themselves apparently culpable, but who were clearly
put into a moral cesspool. The perpetrators as
well as the victims were both placed in their
relationship to one another by the policies of
George W. Bush.
dare the incompetent and willful members of this
Bush/Cheney Administration humiliate our nation
and our people in the eyes of the world and in
the conscience of our own people. How dare they
subject us to such dishonor and disgrace. How
dare they drag the good name of the United States
of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein's
Kay concluded his search for weapons of mass destruction
in Iraq with the famous verdict: "we were all
wrong." And for many Americans, Kay's statement
seemed to symbolize the awful collision between
Reality and all of the false and fading impressions
President Bush had fostered in building support
for his policy of going to war.
the White House has informed the American people
that they were also "all wrong" about their decision
to place their faith in Ahmed Chalabi, even though
they have paid him 340,000 dollars per month.
33 million dollars (CHECK) and placed him adjacent
to Laura Bush at the State of the Union address.
Chalabi had been convicted of fraud and embezzling
70 million dollars in public funds from a Jordanian
bank, and escaped prison by fleeing the country.
But in spite of that record, he had become one
of key advisors to the Bush Administration on
planning and promoting the War against Iraq.
they repeatedly cited him as an authority, perhaps
even a future president of Iraq. Incredibly, they
even ferried him and his private army into Baghdad
in advance of anyone else, and allowed him to
seize control over Saddam's secret papers.
they are telling the American people that he is
a spy for Iran who has been duping the President
of the United States for all these years.
of the Generals in charge of this war policy went
on a speaking tour in his spare time to declare
before evangelical groups that the US is in a
holy war as "Christian Nation battling Satan."
This same General Boykin was the person who ordered
the officer who was in charge of the detainees
in Guantanamo Bay to extend his methods to Iraq
detainees, prisoners. ... The testimony from the
prisoners is that they were forced to curse their
religion Bush used the word "crusade" early on
in the war against Iraq, and then commentators
pointed out that it was singularly inappropriate
because of the history and sensitivity of the
Muslim world and then a few weeks later he used
are now being viewed as the modern Crusaders,
as the modern colonial power in this part of the
world," Zinni said.
a terrible irony that our country, which was founded
by refugees seeking religious freedom - coming
to America to escape domineering leaders who tried
to get them to renounce their religion - would
now be responsible for this kind of abuse..
Saeed al-Sheikh told the Washington Post that
he was tortured andordered to denounce Islam and
after his leg was broken one of his torturers
started hitting it while ordering him to curse
Islam and then, " they ordered me to thank Jesus
that I'm alive." Others reported that they were
forced to eat pork and drink alcohol.
my religious tradition, I have been taught that
"ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather
grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so,
every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but
a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit... Wherefore
by their fruits ye shall know them."
President convinced a majority of the country
that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking
us on September 11th. But in truth he had nothing
whatsoever to do with it. The President convinced
the country with a mixture of forged documents
and blatantly false assertions that Saddam was
in league with Al Qaeda, and that he was "indistinguishable"
from Osama bin Laden.
asked the nation , in his State of the Union address,
to "imagine" how terrified we should be that Saddam
was about to give nuclear weapons to terrorists
and stated repeatedly that Iraq posed a grave
and gathering threat to our nation. He planted
the seeds of war, and harvested a whirlwind. And
now, the "corrupt tree" of a war waged on false
premises has brought us the "evil fruit" of Americans
torturing and humiliating prisoners.
my opinion, John Kerry is dealing with this unfolding
tragedy in an impressive and extremely responsible
way. Our nation's best interest lies in having
a new president who can turn a new page, sweep
clean with a new broom, and take office on January
20th of next year with the ability to make a fresh
assessment of exactly what our nation's strategic
position is as of the time the reigns of power
are finally wrested from the group of incompetents
that created this catastrophe.
should not tie his own hands by offering overly
specific, detailed proposals concerning a situation
that is rapidly changing and unfortunately, rapidly
deteriorating, but should rather preserve his,
and our country's, options, to retrieve our national
honor as soon as this long national nightmare
did not propose a five-point plan for changing
America's approach to the Korean War when he was
running for president in 1952.
a business enterprise finds itself in deep trouble
that is linked to the failed policies of the current
CEO the board of directors and stockholders usually
say to the failed CEO, "Thank you very much, but
we're going to replace you now with a new CEO
-- one less vested in a stubborn insistence on
staying the course, even if that course is, in
the words of General Zinni, "Headed over Niagara
of the strengths of democracy is the ability of
the people to regularly demand changes in leadership
and to fire a failing leader and hire a new one
with the promise of hopeful change. That is the
real solution to America's quagmire in Iraq. But,
I am keenly aware that we have seven months and
twenty five days remaining in this president's
current term of office and that represents a time
of dangerous vulnerability for our country because
of the demonstrated incompetence and recklessness
of the current administration.
is therefore essential that even as we focus on
the fateful choice, the voters must make this
November that we simultaneously search for ways
to sharply reduce the extraordinary danger that
we face with the current leadership team in place.
It is for that reason that I am calling today
for Republicans as well as Democrats to join me
in asking for the immediate resignations of those
immediately below George Bush and Dick Cheney
who are most responsible for creating the catastrophe
that we are facing in Iraq.
desperately need a national security team with
at least minimal competence because the current
team is making things worse with each passing
day. They are endangering the lives of our soldiers,
and sharply increasing the danger faced by American
citizens everywhere in the world, including here
at home. They are enraging hundreds of millions
of people and embittering an entire generation
of anti-Americans whose rage is already near the
simply cannot afford to further increase the risk
to our country with more blunders by this team.
Donald Rumsfeld, as the chief architect of the
war plan, should resign today. His deputies Paul
Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and his intelligence
chief Stephen Cambone should also resign. The
nation is especially at risk every single day
that Rumsfeld remains as Secretary of Defense.
Rice, who has badly mishandled the coordination
of national security policy, should also resign
Tenet should also resign. I want to offer a special
word about George Tenet, because he is a personal
friend and I know him to be a good and decent
man. It is especially painful to call for his
resignation, but I have regretfully concluded
that it is extremely important that our country
have new leadership at the CIA immediately.
a nation, our greatest export has always been
hope: hope that through the rule of law people
can be free to pursue their dreams, that democracy
can supplant repression and that justice, not
power, will be the guiding force in society. Our
moral authority in the world derived from the
hope anchored in the rule of law. With this blatant
failure of the rule of law from the very agents
of our government, we face a great challenge in
restoring our moral authority in the world and
demonstrating our commitment to bringing a better
life to our global neighbors.
Ronald Reagan's Presidency, Secretary of Labor
Ray Donovan was accused of corruption, but eventually,
after a lot of publicity, the indictment was thrown
out by the Judge. Donovan asked the question,
"Where do I go to get my reputation back?" President
Bush has now placed the United States of America
in the same situation. Where do we go to get our
good name back?
answer is, we go where we always go when a dramatic
change is needed. We go to the ballot box, and
we make it clear to the rest of the world that
what's been happening in America for the last
four years, and what America has been doing in
Iraq for the last two years, really is not who
we are. We, as a people, at least the overwhelming
majority of us, do not endorse the decision to
dishonor the Geneva Convention and the Bill of
no mistake, the damage done at Abu Ghraib is not
only to America's reputation and America's strategic
interests, but also to America's spirit. It is
also crucial for our nation to recognize - and
to recognize quickly - that the damage our nation
has suffered in the world is far, far more serious
than President Bush's belated and tepid response
would lead people to believe. Remember how shocked
each of us, individually, was when we first saw
those hideous images. The natural tendency was
to first recoil from the images, and then to assume
that they represented a strange and rare aberration
that resulted from a few twisted minds or, as
the Pentagon assured us, "a few bad apples."
as today's shocking news reaffirms yet again,
this was not rare. It was not an aberration. Today's
New York Times reports that an Army survey of
prisoner deaths and mistreatment in Iraq and Afghanisatan
"show a widespread pattern of abuse involving
more military units than previously known.'
did these abuses spring from a few twisted minds
at the lowest ranks of our military enlisted personnel.
No, it came from twisted values and atrocious
policies at the highest levels of our government.
This was done in our name, by our leaders.
horrors were the predictable consequence of policy
choices that flowed directly from this administration's
contempt for the rule of law. And the dominance
they have been seeking is truly not simply unworthy
of America - it is also an illusory goal in its
world is unconquerable because the human spirit
is unconquerable, and any national strategy based
on pursuing the goal of domination is doomed to
fail because it generates its own opposition,
and in the process, creates enemies for the would-be
policy based on domination of the rest of the
world not only creates enemies for the United
States and creates recruits for Al Qaeda, it also
undermines the international cooperation that
is essential to defeating the efforts of terrorists
who wish harm and intimidate Americans.
as we have painfully seen in Iraq, is its own
reward. Going it alone may satisfy a political
instinct but it is dangerous to our military,
even without their Commander in Chief taunting
terrorists to "bring it on."
troops are stretched thin and exhausted not only
because Secretary Rumsfeld contemptuously dismissed
the advice of military leaders on the size of
the needed force - but also because President
Bush's contempt for traditional allies and international
opinion left us without a real coalition to share
the military and financial burden of the war and
the occupation. Our future is dependent upon increasing
cooperation and interdependence in a world tied
ever more closely together by technologies of
communications and travel. The emergence of a
truly global civilization has been accompanied
by the recognition of truly global challenges
that require global responses that, as often as
not, can only be led by the United States - and
only if the United States restores and maintains
its moral authority to lead.
no mistake, it is precisely our moral authority
that is our greatest source of strength, and it
is precisely our moral authority that has been
recklessly put at risk by the cheap calculations
and mean compromises of conscience wagered with
history by this willful president.
to the way Israel's highest court dealt with a
similar question when, in 1999, it was asked to
balance due process rights against dire threats
to the security of its people:
is the destiny of democracy, as not all means
are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed
by its enemies are open before it. Although a
democracy must often fight with one hand tied
behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper
hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition
of an individual's liberty constitutes an important
component in its understanding of security. At
the end of the day they (add to) its strength."
last and best description of America's meaning
in the world is still the definitive formulation
of Lincoln's annual message to Congress on December
occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we
must rise - with the occasion. As our case is
new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must
disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save
our country. Fellow citizens, we cannot escape
history...the fiery trial through which we pass
will light us down in honor or dishonor to the
latest generation...We shall nobly save, or meanly
lose the last best hope of earth...The way is
plain, peaceful, generous, just - a way which,
if followed, the world will forever applaud, and
God must forever bless."
is now clear that their obscene abuses of the
truth and their unforgivable abuse of the trust
placed in them after 9/11 by the American people
led directly to the abuses of the prisoners in
Abu Ghraib prison and, we are now learning, in
many other similar facilities constructed as part
of Bush's Gulag, in which, according to the Red
Cross, 70 to 90 percent of the victims are totally
innocent of any wrongdoing.
same dark spirit of domination has led them to
- for the first time in American history - imprison
American citizens with no charges, no right to
see a lawyer, no right to notify their family,
no right to know of what they are accused, and
no right to gain access to any court to present
an appeal of any sort. The Bush Admistration has
even acquired the power to compel librarians to
tell them what any American is reading, and to
compel them to keep silent about the request -
or else the librarians themselves can also be
have launched an unprecedented assault on civil
liberties, on the right of the courts to review
their actions, on the right of the Congress to
have information to how they are spending the
public's money and the right of the news media
to have information about the policies they are
same pattern characterizes virtually all of their
policies. They resent any constraint as an insult
to their will to dominate and exercise power.
Their appetite for power is astonishing. It has
led them to introduce a new level of viciousness
in partisan politics. It is that viciousness that
led them to attack as unpatriotic, Senator Max
Cleland, who lost three limbs in combat during
the Vietnam War.
president episodically poses as a healer and "uniter".
If he president really has any desire to play
that role, then I call upon him to condemn Rush
Limbaugh - perhaps his strongest political supporter
- who said that the torture in Abu Ghraib was
a "brilliant maneuver" and that the photos were
"good old American pornography," and that the
actions portrayed were simply those of "people
having a good time and needing to blow off steam."
new political viciousness by the President and
his supporters is found not only on the campaign
trail, but in the daily operations of our democracy.
They have insisted that the leaders of their party
in the Congress deny Democrats any meaningful
role whatsoever in shaping legislation, debating
the choices before us as a people, or even to
attend the all-important conference committees
that reconcile the differences between actions
by the Senate and House of Representatives.
same meanness of spirit shows up in domestic policies
as well. Under the Patriot Act, Muslims, innocent
of any crime, were picked up, often physically
abused, and held incommunicado indefinitely. What
happened in Abu Ghraib was difference not of kind,
but of degree.
of degree are important when the subject is torture.
The apologists for what has happened do have points
that should be heard and clearly understood. It
is a fact that every culture and every politics
sometimes expresses itself in cruelty. It is also
undeniably true that other countries have and
do torture more routinely, and far more brutally,
than ours has. George Orwell once characterized
life in Stalin's Russia as "a boot stamping on
a human face forever." That was the ultimate culture
of cruelty, so ingrained, so organic, so systematic
that everyone in it lived in terror, even the
terrorizers. And that was the nature and degree
of state cruelty in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
all know these things, and we need not reassure
ourselves and should not congratulate ourselves
that our society is less cruel than some others,
although it is worth noting that there are many
that are less cruel than ours. And this searing
revelation at Abu Ghraib should lead us to examine
more thoroughly the routine horrors in our domestic
what we do now, in reaction to Abu Ghraib will
determine a great deal about who we are at the
beginning of the 21st century. It is important
to note that just as the abuses of the prisoners
flowed directly from the policies of the Bush
White House, those policies flowed not only from
the instincts of the president and his advisors,
but found support in shifting attitudes on the
part of some in our country in response to the
outrage and fear generated by the attack of September
president exploited and fanned those fears, but
some otherwise sensible and levelheaded Americans
fed them as well. I remember reading genteel-sounding
essays asking publicly whether or not the prohibitions
against torture were any longer relevant or desirable.
The same grotesque misunderstanding of what is
really involved was responsible for the tone in
the memo from the president's legal advisor, Alberto
Gonzalez, who wrote on January 25, 2002, that
9/11 "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations
on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders
quaint some of its provisions."
have seen the pictures. We have learned the news.
We cannot unlearn it; it is part of us. The important
question now is, what will we do now about torture.
Stop it? Yes, of course. But that means demanding
all of the facts, not covering them up, as some
now charge the administration is now doing. One
of the whistleblowers at Abu Ghraib, Sergeant
Samuel Provance, told ABC News a few days ago
that he was being intimidated and punished for
telling the truth. "There is definitely a coverup,"
Provance said. "I feel like I am being punished
for being honest."
abhorrent acts in the prison were a direct consequence
of the culture of impunity encouraged, authorized
and instituted by Bush and Rumsfeld in their statements
that the Geneva Conventions did not apply. The
apparent war crimes that took place were the logical,
inevitable outcome of policies and statements
from the administration.
me, as glaring as the evidence of this in the
pictures themselves was the revelation that it
was established practice for prisoners to be moved
around during ICRC visits so that they would not
be available for visits. That, no one can claim,
was the act of individuals. That was policy set
from above with the direct intention to violate
US values it was to be upholding. It was the kind
of policy we see - and criticize in places like
China and Cuba.
the administration has also set up the men and
women of our own armed forces for payback the
next time they are held as prisoners. And for
that, this administration should pay a very high
price. One of the most tragic consequences of
these official crimes is that it will be very
hard for any of us as Americans - at least for
a very long time - to effectively stand up for
human rights elsewhere and criticize other governments,
when our policies have resulted in our soldiers
behaving so monstrously. This administration has
shamed America and deeply damaged the cause of
freedom and human rights everywhere, thus undermining
the core message of America to the world.
Bush offered a brief and half-hearted apology
to the Arab world - but he should apologize to
the American people for abandoning the Geneva
Conventions. He also owes an apology to the U.S.
Army for cavalierly sending them into harm's way
while ignoring the best advice of their commanders.
Perhaps most importantly of all, he should apologize
to all those men and women throughout our world
who have held the ideal of the United States of
America as a shining goal, to inspire their hopeful
efforts to bring about justice under a rule of
law in their own lands. Of course, the problem
with all these legitimate requests is that a sincere
apology requires an admission of error, a willingness
to accept responsibility and to hold people accountable.
And President Bush is not only unwilling to acknowledge
error. He has thus far been unwilling to hold
anyone in his administration accountable for the
worst strategic and military miscalculations and
mistakes in the history of the United States of
is willing only to apologize for the alleged erratic
behavior of a few low-ranking enlisted people,
who he is scapegoating for his policy fiasco.
December of 2000, even though I strongly disagreed
with the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to
order a halt to the counting of legally cast ballots,
I saw it as my duty to reaffirm my own strong
belief that we are a nation of laws and not only
accept the decision, but do what I could to prevent
efforts to delegitimize George Bush as he took
the oath of office as president.
did not at that moment imagine that Bush would,
in the presidency that ensued, demonstrate utter
contempt for the rule of law and work at every
turn to frustrate accountability...
today, I want to speak on behalf of those Americans
who feel that President Bush has betrayed our
nation's trust, those who are horrified at what
has been done in our name, and all those who want
the rest of the world to know that we Americans
see the abuses that occurred in the prisons of
Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and secret locations
as yet undisclosed as completely out of keeping
with the character and basic nature of the American
people and at odds with the principles on which
believe we have a duty to hold President Bush
accountable - and I believe we will. As Lincoln
said at our time of greatest trial, "We - even
we here - hold the power, and bear the responsibility."
Posted: May 28, 2004