You probably thought John Ashcroft was the most God-awful attorney general in our history. Unfortunately, there’s room to sink even further. The main culprit behind the American torture of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay – Alberto Gonzales – is about to become the next attorney general.
The Constitution, the Geneva Convention, innocent-until-proven-guilty – all quaint and outdated according to Gonzales. This is the genius who decided to redefine suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners as “enemy combatants” instead of prisoners of war, thereby wriggling out from under the Geneva Convention. Note the boldfaced word in that sentence: suspected. Not terrorists (does the word “trial” ring any bells?) – suspected terrorists.
The White House is adding to the tension between Gonzales and Senate Democrats (and even some Republicans) by refusing to provide additional requested documents that might further clarify Gonzales’ connection to the torture scandal.
During Thursday’s hearings, Senator Patrick Leahy said “America’s troops and citizens are at greater risk” because of administration policies that are “tantamount to torture.” For those American “Patriots” who dismiss Third World citizens as just a bunch of dark-skinned foreigners who worship a different god and don’t even speak English, Leahy’s quote should bring home a very clear point: what goes around comes around. If American soldiers torture their captives, American soldiers are more likely to be tortured by the enemy when they get captured. (Joseph Biden spelled out this same point to John Ashcroft during a hearing several months ago.)
Another item that’s been in the news off and on is the CIA practice called “rendition.” What this nice, bland, innocuous-sounding word means is: transferring suspected terrorists to Egypt, Yemen or Saudi Arabia (as we speak, there’s still a difference between America and those countries – savor the moment) for “questioning.” In these countries, “questioning” includes but is not limited to: electric shocks (in that spot where you’d least want to be shocked), being repeatedly “almost” drowned, beatings, and being left hanging/suspended by the arms for long periods. (This reminds me of a cartoon several years ago in a bodybuilding magazine: two prisoners are being suspended by their arms, and one of them says to the other “the worst part of this is, my lats are getting way overtrained.”)
Anyway, these two stories keep dancing around in my head: 1) Alberto Gonzales luxuriating in a nice soft chair while senators politely question him about his torture policies, and 2) suspected terrorists being electrocuted, kicked and beaten, and having their heads submerged under water for long periods while they’re being “questioned.” It just seems like there’s something wrong with this picture, a certain inconsistency. Hmmm, I can’t quite put my finger on it…
Wait, I’ve got it! Since Alberto Gonzales thinks “exporting” prisoners to Egypt or Saudi Arabia is such a great idea, well, what’s sauce for the goose…Let’s see Gonzales’ answers, and general demeanor, if he’s getting a cattle prod rammed into his unmentionables, or having his head shoved under water while he’s being questioned. After all, the Constitution and Geneva Convention are soooo 1990s. He hasn’t been convicted of anything, of course, but then neither have our suspected terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And those henchmen in the White House who refuse to turn over those aforementioned requested documents – let’s see, where shall we put those electrodes…
So, which is it? If we’re appalled at the way Third World countries treat their suspects, and then we export our own suspects to these exact same countries (while we’re looking for loopholes in the Geneva Convention and the Constitution) – let’s just say we’re sending out some mixed signals. Let’s have a little sanity and consistency here, shall we?