I have some good news and some bad news.
First, the good news: After a thorough and diligent investigation, I have solved twenty-five unsolved murders. I know who the murderers are, I know how they committed their crimes, and I have more than enough evidence to convict them.
Now for the bad news: I am not going to release any of this evidence or demand that any of these murderers be prosecuted.
While this may seem anathema to the fundamental concept of justice, I have five reasons for my actions:
Reason Number One: If you want these murderers to be prosecuted, you are seeking vengeance, not justice;
Reason Number Two: Putting these murderers on trial might implicate other, more “important,” people who should remain above the law;
Reason Number Three: All of these murders occurred only after the murderers engaged in a “well-thought out” debate about whether or not to commit them;
Reason Number Four: If you want crimes of the past to be prosecuted, you are “looking backward,” when you should be “looking forward”;
Reason Number Five: These twenty-five murders were not really murders at all. They were simply extroverted suicides.
If any, or all, of these reasons seem ludicrous to you, then welcome to America’s so-called “debate” over whether the individuals who engaged in, encouraged or authorized the use of torture during the criminal reign of George W. Bush should be prosecuted.
Reason Number Five is the semantic argument propagated by Bush himself: Torture isn’t really torture when the politically powerful refuse to label it as such. According to this logic, members of Joseph Stalin’s NKVD never used torture. They only applied “physical pressure.” And the Bush dictatorship never used or sanctioned the use of torture. It simply authorized and utilized “expanded interrogation techniques.”
Reason Number Four is the argument being disseminated by America’s current president Barack Obama. Obama’s claim that Americans should “look forward, not backward” is now being cited to defend the alleged architects of the Bush-era torture policies, including former United States attorney general Alberto Gonzales.
Yet, ironically, Gonzales himself implicitly rejected this argument during his own tenure in office when he announced, with much ceremony, that the Justice Department was investigating and seeking to bring to justice the persons responsible for decades-old crimes committed during America’s civil rights era.
Just as the torture apologists are doing today, critics of Gonzales’s civil rights initiative argued that investigating and prosecuting such cases would only open up “old wounds.” But if the “opening up of old wounds” argument was rejected by the highest law enforcement official in the nation during the Bush dictatorship, how can Bush and his minions now embrace it, particularly since the perpetrators are not disgruntled racists who lawlessly sought to uphold the status-quo, but politicians, attorneys and law enforcement officials sworn to uphold the laws and principles of the United States?
Reasons One through Three represent the tortured logic of Washington Post columnist David Broder. In perhaps one of the most sophistic and repulsive editorials ever written, Broder proffered these three arguments to support his contentions that Obama should refuse to be “pressured” into bringing Bush-era torturers to justice, and should instead “close the books on the torture policies of the past.”
But what good is a criminal justice system that cannot seek justice? As any teacher of correctional theory will acknowledge, one goal of this system is to ensure that crime victims receive some retribution for the wrongs perpetrated against them. In fact, in the federal criminal justice system rehabilitation has largely been abandoned in favor of retribution.
The result is that America has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. And certainly nobody can dispute that the goal of its overused, and often abused, death penalty—a punishment banned by most other industrialized nations—is retribution, not rehabilitation.
The sadism that led to the torture policies of George W. Bush can be traced back to his days as governor of the execution crazed state of Texas, where he signed over one hundred and fifty death warrants and contemptuously mocked inmates, like Karla Fay Tucker, who were scheduled for execution, while at the same time routinely denying petitions for DNA tests that could have exonerated wrongfully convicted prisoners.
Yet now it is somehow “vengeful” to demand that George W. Bush and his cadre of torturers be prosecuted, despite mounting evidence that their torture policies were themselves nothing more than sadistic acts of vengeance.
According to a New York Times editorial written by former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, “high profile” terrorists like Abu Zubaydah actually provided the most useful information prior to the use of torture. Soufan went on to say, “No actionable intelligence [was] gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques . . . that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics.” And, contrary to the glowing reports about the successes of the Bush-era torture policies now being vomited by America’s premier liar, coward, torturer and warmonger Dick Cheney, Soufan even admitted that the use of torture actually “backfired on more than a few occasions.”
These sentiments were echoed by former State Department official Philip Zelikow, who described the Bush dictatorship’s use of torture as a “collective failure.”
Even more recent revelations have disclosed that the Bush-era torture policies were not even used to “keep America safe” from future terrorist attacks, as Cheney alleges, but instead to force torture victims to falsely admit there was a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
It seems strange that Broder is so concerned about the prospect of politically powerful people being prosecuted. After all, such a “concern” certainly doesn’t dissuade America from demanding such prosecutions in other countries. Didn’t the Bush dictatorship cite the crimes of Saddam Hussein as justification for the Iraqi invasion after no “weapons of mass destruction” were found? Weren’t the Nuremburg Trials after World War II designed to bring Nazi war criminals to justice, regardless of their rank or governmental positions? Didn’t Bush’s own father invade Panama on the pretext of arresting that nation’s military dictator Manuel Noriega, even though his true motive was to divert attention away from the criminals that caused the “Savings and Loan” scandal in the United States?
Today it seems that even countries with human rights records more abysmal than America’s are willing to punish, or at the very least admit, their past crimes. As I noted in my Pravda.Ru article What’s Good for Jon Burge is Good for the CIA, the nation of Peru recently tried and convicted its former president Alberto Fujimori for human rights abuses.
But America refuses to prosecute its own Alberto, or any other Bush-era torturers.
Perhaps Broder’s most absurd argument is that the Bush-era torture policies are somehow excusable because they were “well debated.” In other words, all criminals have to do to purge themselves of guilt is to have a discussion first. If that’s the case, then nobody in a position of political power could ever be prosecuted for anything.
Can one imagine the justifiable outrage if Adolph Hitler had been captured, but never punished, or even prosecuted, simply because his policies were “well-debated?” Broder’s argument could also be used to excuse Joseph Stalin’s murderous purges in the former Soviet Union, Pol Pot’s killing fields in Cambodia, or Kim Jong-il’s nuclear ambitions in North Korea. After all, even tyrants can allege that they, at the very least, engaged in internal debates before creating policy.
For a short while it appeared that America was going to atone for its Bush-era crimes, especially after the Obama administration released the Justice Department memos the Bush dictatorship used to speciously rationalize its lust for torture. Although there was some opposition to this release, it came primarily from “the usual suspects”—deceitful, warmongering, hypocritical and cowardly politicians, pundits and pseudo-journalists who zealously hawked the Iraqi war, yet who also took extraordinary measures to avoid military service themselves.
But the hope that the administration of Barack Obama would be synonymous with justice was short-lived. To be fair, the crimes of the Bush dictatorship placed Obama in a difficult position. Had he not released the Justice Department torture memos, many people, both in America and around the world, would have asserted that the United States government was once again covering up its crimes.
But releasing the memos prompted demands for justice, thus compelling Obama to make his first major decision. So the question became, “Would he act as a leader or as a politician?”
Sadly he chose the latter.
In fact, since the release of those memos, Obama has reinstated the use of military tribunals to prosecute suspected terrorists. He has also backtracked on his promise to release photographs showing members of America’s military abusing detainees, and in doing so he cited the same arguments once proffered by the Bush dictatorship. Apparently the “audacity of hope” has transformed into “Bush-lite.”
But apparently Obama’s metamorphosis wasn’t enough for the United States Congress. In a vote that will eventually be condemned by history, these hypocritical demagogues once again shredded the constitution by denying Obama the funds he requested so he could fulfill his pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay internment camp. Thus the Bush-era legacy of detention without trial and denial of due process lives on.
In addition, allegations have surfaced that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had actually been briefed on, and acquiesced to, the torture policies of the Bush dictatorship. Perhaps this is why she so adamantly refused to institute impeachment proceedings against Bush or his minions.
What are the differences between a politician and a leader? Politicians seek power, while power seeks leaders. Also leaders will follow their higher principles, even when they are detrimental to personal ambitions or self-interest. Politicians, by contrast, will shed their principles (assuming they had any to begin with) without hesitation or compunction whenever they interfere with self-interest or the quest for reelection.
After the 2008 presidential election, many comparisons were drawn between Barack Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But what was ignored is the fact that King was a leader, while Obama is a politician.
Numerous King biographers have pointed out that King had simply wanted to be a preacher, and did not initially seek to acquire a leadership role in the civil rights movement. But in Montgomery, Alabama, where King chose to settle after completing his education, there were two men vying for leadership of the African-American community. When demands for a “bus boycott” arose after the arrest of Rosa Parks, neither man wanted to lead the boycott, for fear it would fail. So King became the compromise choice.
Instead the success of the Montgomery bus boycott elevated King to national prominence. Once there he often took actions that were morally correct, even though he knew they could potentially harm his fundraising efforts or give his enemies ammunition to attack him.
At the behest of his friend Anne Braden he signed a petition supporting clemency for her husband Carl, who was imprisoned after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Later in his career, despite warnings that it could lose him the sympathetic ear of president Lyndon Johnson, King gave a speech criticizing the war in Vietnam. And shortly before his untimely death, he became even more vocal in his denunciations of the military-industrial complex and the economic disparities in America.
There is little doubt that King, if he were alive today, would be just as outspoken about the immorality of the war against Iraq and the torture policies of the Bush dictatorship.
In Obama’s world, however, moral arguments are apparently trumped by political ones.
The depths to which Obama has sunk can be measured by the fact that his decisions regarding the “war on terror” recently won him the praise of Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, a neo-fascist, warmongering coward who is often a fixture on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox “News” Channel.
Sadly, America is a land where two political parties serve one master. The Republican Party is venal, lawless, corrupt, mendacious, hatemongering and even treasonous. It impeached Bill Clinton for lying about a sexual affair, yet refused to impeach George W. Bush for more egregious crimes, including the theft of two elections, the illegal invasion of Iraq, the manipulation of intelligence information and the dissemination of outright lies to justify this invasion, the waste of billions of tax dollars and the sacrifice of thousands of lives to carry out this invasion, the shredding of the United States constitution, the use of torture, illegal detention and other human rights violations.
The Democratic Party, as Pelosi’s hypocrisy demonstrates, allowed one of its own to be impeached for the flimsiest of reasons, but turned a deaf ear to demands that George W. Bush and his minions be impeached. It too is venal, corrupt and mendacious. But it is also cowardly—afraid to speak out too forcefully against the hatemongers, the hypocrites and the right-wing pseudo-journalists who dominate the corporate-controlled media. Democrats may pay lip service to higher causes, but they, as Hamlet said, “lose the name of action.” And they are just as responsible for the shredding of the constitution, which makes them just as treasonous as the Republicans.
Finally there’s the CIA and the FBI—two agencies that can simply disregard the constitution, that exist beyond the reach of the so-called “check and balance” system, and whose mission is not to defend freedom, democracy and human rights, but to protect the interests and profits of the same master the Republican and Democratic parties serve—the corrupt plutocracy, fueled by the military industrial complex, that truly controls the government of the United States.
In a previous Pravda.Ru article entitled The Great Allure I explained that the reason mainstream Americans remain oblivious to the machinations of this plutocracy is because human nature tends to be more inclined to fascism than democracy.
Despite all their lamentations about the “liberal” media, the neo-fascists control the hearts and minds of America. Fascists have always understood that it is easier to reduce human beings to their lowest common denominator than to elevate them to their highest potential.
So everyday thousands of Americans mindlessly act against their own economic and social interests, myopically taking their marching orders from demagogic pseudo-journalists, right-wing “talk radio” hosts and hatemongers who deceptively wrap themselves in the American flag or the garments of “Christianity,” then count their riches while laughing at their audience’s gullibility.
Fascism works because being told what to think, who to like and—most importantly to neo-fascists—who to hate requires much less effort than thinking for oneself. Also blaming scapegoats for the nation’s ills is easier than analyzing and trying to solve the complex problems of a complex world.
Appeals to the basest of human emotions, like greed, hatred, fear, superstition, selfishness and bigotry are much more effective than appeals to reason. Logic and science can be disproven, but emotions require no factual basis, so nothing can refute them; consequently people emotionally vested in a belief are unlikely to change it, even when reason proves them wrong.
So expect nothing that remotely resembles justice to emanate from the United States. The neo-fascists have hijacked the torture debate, and have already intimidated Barack Obama into backtracking on his promises. Yet there is little doubt that these same neo-fascists would be the ones screaming for “justice” if the crimes of the Bush dictatorship had instead been committed during Obama’s presidency.
A famous rhyme says:
Treason never prospers.
What is the reason?
Because if it prospers
None dare call it treason.
The legacy of George W. Bush grimly reminds the world that treason can prosper in America. And, in doing so, it has added another verse to this rhyme—a verse that will continue to mock anyone who truly believes in justice:
Torturers prosper in America.
They can torture with impunity.
We condemn torturers in other nations,
But give ours immunity.
David R. Hoffman
Legal Editor of Pravda.Ru