Torquemada for Attorney General
The Bush Administration has always reminded me of a certain Frasier episode several years ago. Frasier was ranting on and on about how terrible everything was, and he said to Niles “well, we’ve already hit rock bottom. What else could possibly happen?” Niles told him “oh, didn’t you know that [and gave him some more bad news]” and Frasier replied with “Going down!”
Just when you think Bush and his cohorts couldn’t possibly sink any lower – they do. Most Americans, regardless of their political views, heaved a collective sigh of relief when John Ashcroft departed after trying for four years to bring us back to the 4th century. Well, sorry folks: Going Down!
There isn’t a particular individual who’s entirely responsible for the torture scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, but the person who initially paved the way for these events – made them practically inevitable – is Alberto Gonzales. Now, take a wild guess: who do you think Dumbya wants for our next Attorney General?
Hello, John Ashcroft: want your old job back? Sorry I called you a Neanderthal book-burning Bible-spewing snakehandler. I was just kidding. Please come back.
Alberto Gonzales has been White House counsel since 2001. He’s the one who came up with the “doctrine” that the President of the United States and his subordinates are not bound by any domestic or international laws prohibiting torture or inhumane treatment of captives. Gonzales laid out this doctrine in a secret memo on 1/25/02; Bush adopted this new policy a few days later.
During the Viet Nam war, National Lampoon magazine had a tongue-in-cheek “news” item: All American soldiers in Cambodia were instructed to jump as high as they could, at an exact pre-arranged time. This pre-arranged jump time was during a Nixon press conference, and this way Nixon could truthfully say “at this time there are no American ground forces in Cambodia.”
Now, fast-forward 30 years and we have Alberto Gonzales deciding “hmm, we’ll redefine our captives as Enemy Combatants instead of Prisoners of War, so the Geneva Convention won’t apply. Then we’ll confine them at an overseas military base so that American constitutional protections won’t be in effect.” With Gonzales’ new doctrine, the Pentagon and CIA were free to use any form of interrogation method they deemed “necessary.”
The Attorney General is supposed to enforce the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution, federal laws and international treaties, not look for ways to wiggle out from under them.
Remember, these torture victims are not terrorists; they’re accused of being terrorists. Some prisoners have already been released from Guantanamo Bay after it was determined they weren’t terrorists; they just got swept up by U.S. forces for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of the most famous Abu Ghraib victims (the one cowering in a corner with a snarling dog just inches from his face) was in jail for being a suspected car thief. No political agenda, no terrorist connections; just suspected of being a car thief.
Hopefully the Senate Judiciary Committee will have the integrity (and the spine) to prevent this modern-day Torquemada from being our next Attorney General. If not, then (again, hopefully) maybe there will be at least 41 Senators whose consciences will force them to be more loyal to the Constitution than Bush’s slogans and arm-twisting tactics.