(embedded links at site)
By Bernard Weiner
Online Journal Guest Writer
Apr 23, 2008
The political noose seems to be tightening on the key members of the remaining miscreants down in the White House bunker — mainly Bush, Cheney, Rice, Addington and Mukasey. (Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Powell and Tenet were pushed out the door earlier.) But will the Democrats, having been provided with smoking gun-type evidence of these officials’ high crimes and misdemeanors, take the next logical step to end this continuing nightmare of law-breaking at the highest levels?
Torture authorized from on high
After eight years, the multiple examples of ethical and felonious crimes of the Bush administration are now abundantly clear and beyond rational dispute. Most compelling among them is the crime of authorizing torture as state policy.
In recent days, we’ve learned that George W. Bush signed orders authorizing torture, and admitted that he approved of the deliberations by his National Security Council’s Principals Committee on the torture regime being set up for a few high-value prisoners. (Which, of course, filtered down to how thousands of suspected terrorists were maltreated.)
Bush has conceded that his Principals (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Ashcroft, Powell, Tenet) kept him apprised of their deliberations on which suspected terrorists would undergo which forms of torture, according to ABC News’ recent blockbuster story.
The meetings of the Principals, according to ABC, took place in early 2002 at least four months before the administration’s famous Bybee/Yoo memos were issued that retroactively sought to provide legal justification for the torture. (Short version of those memoranda: The president is above all U.S. laws and international treaties.)
During those Principals’ meetings, Dick Cheney was a driving force behind the use of “harsh interrogations” of the prisoners in U.S. care. Other members were more worried about what they were doing. In the ABC story, according to a top official, John Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.”
Condoleezza Rice, then national security advisor, aggressively chaired the Principals’ torture meetings. Despite some occasional misgivings voiced by Ashcroft and Colin Powell about the “enhanced interrogation” techniques being employed, Rice told the CIA: “This is your baby. Go do it.”
Trying to make torture “legal”
Torture, as commonly understood and defined, is illegal under both U.S. law and international treaties that American governments have ratified over the decades. Bush&Co. had to come up with a way to torture suspects but not to appear to be doing so. Here’s how it worked: Officials felt they could honestly assert that the administration didn’t approve of or authorize torture because under the new definition supplied in the Bybee/Yoo memos, it was torture only if the prisoners were near-death or their internal organs were about to fail as a result of their treatment. In other words, the administration simply made everything else legal: beatings, near-drownings, electroshocks to the genitals, stress positions, sexual abuse, etc. Only if the interrogators killed the prisoners or were close to doing so would they have crossed over the line. See my Control the Dictionary, Control the World.
It turns out that David Addington, Cheney’s then-legal counsel who has since replaced Scooter Libby as Cheney’s chief of staff, was at the locus of the cockamamie reasoning behind both the Bybee/Yoo torture memos and the “unitary executive” theory of governance. The latter asserts that the president is in charge of basically everything governmental and can’t be touched; further, the Bybee/Yoo memos assert the president cannot be second-guessed when he claims to be acting as “commander in chief” during “wartime.”
Of course, there has been no congressional Declaration of War, as the Constitution requires; the “war” — at an estimated cost of several trillions(!) of dollars — is the “War on Terror,” which, since it’s being waged against a tactic, can never be completely won and thus is never-ending. In short, the president, under this asserted legal cover, can act more or less as a dictator forever, including declaring martial law whenever he deems an “emergency” situation prevails. (Suppose, for example, the ballot-counting books are cooked in November and the Democratic candidate once again has a victory stolen away. There could be mass protests, perhaps even riots, in the streets. A potential “civic emergency” right there.)
Mukasey’s false testimony
Michael Mukasey, who promised he would be an independent attorney general, has turned out to be just as much of a lackey for the administration as his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales. Mukasey seems to feel, as Gonzales did, that he doesn’t work for the public but is there to ensure that his bosses stay out of jail. (Interesting side note: Barack Obama says that, if elected, he would ask his attorney general to investigate whether Bush and Cheney might have committed indictable crimes while in office.)
But what really got Mukasey into hot water in recent days was his assertion that the U.S. knew that a terrorist in Afghanistan was calling someone inside the U.S. prior to the 9/11 attack but the supposedly “outdated” FISA laws wouldn’t permit the administration to tap that phone call and thus prevent the 9/11 events from happening. Mukasey was using that fallacious argument in 2008 as a scare tactic for why the Bush administration needed congressional reauthorization immediately of the NSA’s domestic-spying program, complete with built-in amnesty for the big telecom companies working in cahoots with the administration.
But Mukasey’s explanation is total B.S.
As Glenn Greenwald and others have made clear, under then-existing FISA law, the Bush administration could have eavesdropped on the pre-9/11 call and didn’t really need any more draconian spying programs. (Mukasey has since tried to tap dance away from having misled Congress.)
The whole object of the Bush administration, in this and every other matter, has been to amass total control of information and intelligence in the White House, cutting out the courts (in this case, specifically the FISA Court) and Congress. They want full freedom to operate outside the law, with nobody — no judges, no legislators, no reporters — looking over their shoulders at what they might be up to, and telling them what they can or cannot do. It’s possible that at least one aim of the domestic spying programs is to learn from secret phone-taps and emails what their political enemies are thinking.
Fuck Impeachment, Impeachment is a political solution to political crimes. What is needed in the case of BushCo are criminal indictments.
Two sides of the same blank planchet, or your quickly devaluing dollar.