Texas -- Such comfort. At the close of the G-8
summit, described by President Bush as "very successful"
(except we didn't get anything we wanted), the
president offered us comfort on the uncomfortable
topic of torture: "Look, I'm going to say it one
more time. The instructions went out to our people
to adhere to the law. That ought to comfort you."
"We're a nations of laws," he went on. "We adhere
to laws. We have laws on the books. You might
look at those laws, and that might comfort you."
There, don't you feel all better now? How comforting
to know the Department of Justice memo on the
subject of torture advises it "must be equivalent
in intensity to the pain accompanying serious
physical injury, such as organ failure, impaired
bodily function or even death." (Memo available
on washingtonpost.com.) Just beating the living
crap out of someone doesn't count at all. The
Geneva Conventions are not binding on us, nor
are any other international agreements if
it impedes the war effort, says the DOJ.
As Professor Michael Froomkin of Miami University
told Salon: "The lawyers who wrote it are guilty.
The people who asked them to write it, who read
it and who may have acted on it -- they're the
people who really have to answer for it." Under
the DOJ theory of the Constitution, the president
can not only approve torture, he can also approve
The Department of Defense memo, reported by The
Wall Street Journal, says the president can unilaterally
nullify the federal war crimes statutes, describes
how to evade federal court jurisdiction over Guantanamo
and lays out ways for government employees to
avoid being charged with torture under federal
law. The CIA's contribution was to ask for explicit
permission to use torture on suspected Al Qaeda
operatives at Gitmo.
Excuse me, but what did they think was going to
happen? The first thing one learns about torture
is that it gets out of control in no time. Spc.
Sean Baker, who had the misfortune to play an
uncooperative prisoner at Gitmo during a training
exercise and had his head slammed against a steel
floor so hard it resulted in traumatic brain injury.
He was given a medical discharge and is now on
nine medications and still suffering seizures.
The "ally-ally-in-free" attitude toward torture
traveled from suspected Al Qaeda members at Gitmo
(mind you, only "suspected," and there is considerable
evidence a lot of the people we've been holding
for years now at Gitmo are low-level types or
even accidental pickups) to Iraqi civilians, 70
percent to 90 percent of whom, according to Gen.
Taguba's report, were in prison by accident. So
now we have a domestic Nuremberg. The Abu Ghraib
guards really were "just following orders."
Also of great comfort is the National Catholic
Reporter's story that during his visit to Rome,
Bush told the Vatican's secretary of state, "Not
all the American bishops are with me" on cultural
issues. "The implication was that he hoped the
Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit
activism," said the Reporter. "While Bush was
focusing primarily on the gay marriage question,
he also had in mind others concerns, such as abortion
and stem cell research."
The New York Times reported, "In his recent trip
to Rome, President Bush asked a top Vatican official
to push American bishops to speak out more about
political issues." As Josh Marshall brightly observed:
"I guess on one level we can say we've come a
long way since 1960, when John F. Kennedy had
to foreswear that he'd follow the instructions
of the Pope in his decisions of governance. Today
we have a Protestant born-again who tries to enlist
the Pope to intervene in an American election."
This follows, of course, recent announcements
by a few bishops that any Catholic politician
who is pro-choice should be denied communion.
One bishop even said voting for a pro-choice Catholic
would result in denial of communion. For some
reason, the bishops seem to refer only to John
Kerry, rather than to pro-choice Republicans such
as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Ridge. What a
I take great comfort in the idea that the Pope
will decide our policy on stem cell research,
not to mention abortion and gay marriage. The
Vatican is never wrong on scientific questions.
Why, in 1992 the Catholic Church actually apologized
to Galileo and said he was right after all --
the earth does revolve around the sun, instead
of vice versa. And it only took them 400 years
to figure it out. Less time than it would take
George W. Bush to admit an error. I find that
COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Posted: June 19, 2004