By David R. Hoffman
Click here to read part I
If the use of torture is not enough to criminally condemn the Bush dictatorship, it can be coupled with the injustice of detention without charge or trial. Just a few weeks ago, Lawrence B. Wilkerson, who once served as chief-of-staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, revealed that many of the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay are innocent, which means they have suffered years of abuse and deprivation for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I had hoped, with Obama’s election, that the “audacity of hope” would bring with it a “plethora of principle,” that it would not be politics as usual, that the United States would apologize for the excesses of the Bush dictatorship, compensate those victimized by it, and criminally punish those responsible for advocating and/or engaging in acts of torture, rendition or illegal detention. But during his recent tour of Europe, Obama seemed content to assert that the world should look forward, not backward.
In a complex world there are few absolutes, and clearly politicians need to be able to adjust their principles to meet certain situations. But this doesn’t mean they should lose sight of them. Principles serve as a shoreline, letting leaders know exactly where they are. As long as they can see the shore, they are not too far from safety. But if they lose sight of that shoreline, they, and the nations they lead, become aimlessly adrift, going wherever the currents of fear and hysteria take them.
Obama should realize that “looking forward, not backward” is what made Hitler and Stalin believe they could get away with murder. “Looking forward, not backward” also causes people to forget or ignore the injustices and excesses of the past. And, as the saying goes, “those who forget the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them.”
Once upon a time there were two evil men. Both gained power through fraudulent elections. Both saw religious and ethnic groups as threats to national security. Both became dictators.
They presided over corrupt and lawless regimes. They blatantly lied to their citizens. They detained people without charge or trial. They used torture to allegedly gain “information.” They surrounded themselves with likeminded tyrants. They illegally invaded sovereign nations to enrich their cronies and plunder natural resources.
For these crimes Saddam Hussein was executed. For these crimes George W. Bush gives speeches in Canada and has a library named after him.
The truth is that all torturers convince themselves there is a “reason” why they must engage in torture. Some even use word games to rationalize their deeds. Bush, for example, so narrowly defined the word “torture” that one of his nominees for Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, refused to call “waterboarding”—a device used to simulate drowning—a torture technique.
Dante Alighieri wrote that the lowest circles of hell are reserved for those who try to justify their sins. If that be so, then all the machinations in the world won’t insulate those who engaged in torture, who advocated it, or who looked the other way when they had the power to stop it, prevent it, or punish those who practiced it.
In a past Pravda.Ru article, The Devil Protects His Own (Parts I and II), I named ten principled people who, in their quest for a better world, died violent and premature deaths. I also named ten unprincipled people whose lust for power caused them to exploit, abuse, torture and even murder their fellow human beings. None of these ten were punished, and all lived to a ripe old age.
I concluded this article by saying: “The mortal world is the devil’s domain, and the devil will always protect his own. Eternity, however, belongs to God. And it is within this realm of Eternity that true justice can be found.”
Logic would seem to dictate that the universe seeks a balance—that those who do good will eventually be rewarded, and that those who do evil will eventually be punished.
But, as revelations about the crimes of the Bush dictatorship continue to emerge, I must confess that I have begun to doubt my words.
I do not doubt that the devil protects his own. There is too much evidence that supports this grim reality. But as long as evil is the primary motivating force in the world, I do wonder if true justice can ever be found, or even if it exists.
And as long as the George W. Bushes, Dick Cheneys, Karl Roves, Donald Rumsfelds, Alberto Gonzaleses, Condoleezza Rices, John Yoos, Rush Limbaughs, Antonin Scalias and others of their ilk walk freely upon the earth, these doubts will continue to linger.
David R. Hoffman, Legal Editor of Pravda.Ru