(Note: Charles Cutter will be on vacation for several weeks. His weekly
column will resume on July 8.)
"It’s far past time for President Bush to prove he is not covering up the
misdeeds of senior officials and political cronies who designed and authorized
these nefarious interrogation policies." This is Amnesty International’s plea
regarding Bush & Co.’s ongoing use of torture as a military tool.
If it sounds a bit on the weak side, it is. It’s a diplomatic form of outrage
- a meaningless attempt to reason with sadistic cowards.
New York Times columnist Bob Herbert falls into a similar trap: "People
have been murdered, tortured, rendered to foreign countries to be tortured at a
distance, sexually violated, imprisoned without trial or in some cases simply
made to ‘disappear’…in the name of freedom…The government, like an addict in
denial, will not even admit that we have a problem." (5/26/05)
"In denial" means perpetuating a self-deception; the Bush administration and
its defenders are simply lying. Their underlying message is that concern
over human rights is an issue for sissy liberals; real Americans aren’t
squeamish about a little torture.
Mr. Bush has nominated William Haynes II - currently General Counsel for the
Department of Defense - to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit. The status of his nomination, in light of this week’s judicial
filibuster compromise, is uncertain. What is clear is that Mr. Haynes
constitutes a "real American" to the Bush administration - he’s not squeamish
about violating the law when it gets in the way of torture.
The organization Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) sent a letter to Senator
Arlen Specter (R-PA), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticizing
the nomination: "Mr. Haynes recommended that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
approve interrogation techniques that amount to torture and cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment under U.S. and international law. Moreover, he oversaw a
group of agency lawyers who prepared a memo asserting that the President is not
bound by anti-torture laws…Mr. Haynes is an architect of some of the most
troubling policies regarding the treatment of detainees…"
PHR has also called for an independent commission to investigate abuses
committed by the American military: "Without an independent investigation into
the almost daily revelations of US forces using torture, we will never put a
stop to these heinous acts."
Amnesty International has echoed that sentiment, calling on Congress to
"appoint a truly impartial and independent commission to investigate the
masterminds of the atrocious human rights violations at Abu Ghraib and other
detention centers, and President Bush should use the power of his office to
press Congress to do so."
While it’s important for such groups to investigate, document and report on
human rights violations, their methodology for seeking a remedy seems
ineffectual. They continue to appeal to Mr. Bush and a government controlled by
right-wing extremists to mend their ways. It’s an exercise in futility: George
W. Bush is not going to stop being George W. Bush, any more than Adolf Hitler
stopped being Adolf Hitler.
As proof, consider White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s response to
the charges brought by Amnesty International: "…[T]he allegations are ridiculous
and unsupported by the facts. The United States is leading the way when it comes
to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity."
Lies and hypocrisy of this magnitude make one nostalgic for the innocuous
parsing and exaggerations of the Clinton-Gore era.
The challenge to be confronted, at this point, is not simply cataloging the
litany of human rights offenses orchestrated by this American government; the
breadth and depth of the evidence is already sufficient. The challenge is - how
do we stop the abuse?
Appealing to Mr. Bush’s humanity? Seeking a Congressional inquiry? Enlisting
the support of the American public?
Seems like a waste of breath, doesn’t it?
Since Americans refuse to be outraged, maybe it’s time for the world to
respond. How about an economic boycott? Breaking off diplomatic relations? A war
crimes tribunal? Instead of welcoming Mr. Bush as a head of state, all civilized
nations should refuse him entry - lest he be arrested and tried as a war
Of course, hoping for this response is as effective as writing an anti-Bush
letter to Tom DeLay. How many foreign governments are willing to suffer the
economic backlash they would incur by truly condemning this country’s
So there it is: The U.S. government, the citizens of America, and the nations
of the world allow Mr. Bush to pursue his own brand of international terrorism.
Despite domestic and international law, despite philosophical principles,
despite exhortations of religious "values," the torture continues.
You can never go wrong underestimating the humanity of the human race.