Pick Wayne's Brain

April 24, 2009

We Lock Up Governors, Why Not Presidents?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 5:44 PM

“…he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,”

The United States Constitution, Article II, Section 3

I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I don’t know what to say. I was watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and I remember growing numb as I listened to what I was hearing. I’m still kind of numb, even as Rachel Maddow interviews Rep Adam Schiff about what we learned today, and I don’t know how to admit it, but I can’t quite remember exactly what it was that they say our former president, George W. Bush, the man who stood before the American people and said, “We do not torture!”, authorized be done in my name, in your name, in all our names, to the people we captured after September 11. I remember this: It was torture. And we did it.

I’m not going to tell you that I stood by our president the whole time and said, “Well, if he says we aren’t torturing anybody, then I take him at his word.” I’m not stupid. I’m not insane (by certain definitions). I’m not naive. At the time he stood before us and said those words, those four words far more nefarious than the sixteen words, I knew what kind of person was telling me that. A pathological liar. A sadistic man-boy. A spoiled child who was given everything he had in life, including his millions of dollars, and never once understood the concept of responsibility. A man who didn’t know how to admit a mistake, even when it was obvious to people less intelligent than he. A man who could not make the mental connection between the the things that he did and the events that resulted from them. Or between cause and effect in general. His mind simply does not operate from a factual basis. He makes decisions based on things that he believes, not necessarily things that are actually, provably, demonstrably, inconclusively true. He knows that torture is not legal. But he was told that what we were doing was not considered torture. And he believed that. So it was, as far as he was concerned, if he had any concern at all about the subject, true. And so he told us, “We do not torture.” Except that it was. And it was done in our name. It was torture. And we did it.

No, I knew immediately that when George W. Bush uttered the words, “We do not torture,” that we were, possibly at that very minute for all we knew, torturing people. It wasn’t a matter of legal nuance, of whether the specifics of what we did constituted torture. It was a simply a matter of knowing that if George W. Bush emphatically states something, as emphatically as stated that “We do not torture,” it was probably not true. And as much as I knew that he was not telling the truth, I wasn’t exactly sure I could call it a “lie.” What he said might not be considered a lie because he insanely believed it to be true. (The lies about Iraq would come later, and those I knew to be falsehoods at the time.) And while I knew his words carried no truth, I also figured it could never be proven. I was wrong. And while one might think I would be happy to know I was wrong about something (those who know me know that I am not always certain about my facts, and that I welcome people to prove me wrong), I am actually devastated. Because we have proof that we did indeed torture. We did things to people that we prosecuted other people for doing, even sending some of them to jail for long periods of time. Not just the Japanese soldiers in WWII, but even Americans. It is illegal. Our nation signed an International Treaty that said, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” We committed acts “by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession.” It was torture. And we did it.

What hit me earlier (and of which I am reminded as I re-watch Countdown) was that our government classified the proof that we tortured. And yet Secretary of Defense Bob Gates told reporters that they are releasing the memos that proved we tortured because it “would eventually come out.” When I served in the Air Force, one of my duties was to keep all the technical manuals and regulations up-to-date. And that included AFR 205-1, “SECURITY: Safeguarding Military Information”. It defines classified information as “Official information, the safeguarding of which is necessary in the interest of national defense, and which is classified for such purpose by appropriate classifying authority.” Well if this information could now be so casually declassified, how could it have related to “national defense”? Should it ever had been classified in the first place? Was it classified because it related to national defense, or was it classified by the Bush Administration because it proved they were guilty of violating international treaties banning torture? It was torture. And we did it.

What they euphemistically called “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” were actually torture techniques that were used in training programs for some of our military personnel. The techniques chosen from the program known as “SERE” Training were chosen specifically because they were illegal. They then decided to declare them “legal”, and authorized CIA and military personnel to use them on captured prisoners. They refused to discuss details of the program, ostensibly because the details were classified. But they weren’t classified because they related to national defense (as evidenced by the fact that they are now releasing it just because they believe it will come out anyway, without apparent concern for our national defense), but because the details were proof that they were using illegal methods in their interrogation of prisoners. They’ve admitted to three prisoners being subject to these techniques, but who knows how many more there really were? It was torture. And we did it.

And it was illegal. Our country, a country which claims to respect the Rule of Law, has sent governors to prison. When a president says, “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” we best demonstrate that we are a nation that governs by the Rule of Law when we hold that president accountable to the law. George W. Bush clearly, undeniably broke the law. Not a minor law, but one that goes to the heart of what differentiates the civilized from the uncivilized. George W. Bush authorized the illegal torture of captured prisoners. We lock up governors, why don’t we lock up presidents, too?


  1. What I find particularly troubling…..and puzzling, is that President Obama seems reluctant to prosecute!

    What’s your opinion as to why?

    Comment by Ewell Blackwell — April 30, 2009 @ 2:11 PM

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog, Ewell.

    I wish I knew the answer, and I, too, am disappointed that he hasn’t prosecuted yet. I will not immediately accuse him of politicizing the Justice Dept the way his predecessor clearly (and illegally) did. The president is supposed to let the AG decide for him or herself whether or not to prosecute. I do not believe that the president is ordering the Attorney General to stay away from the case. And I think that AG Holder is biding his time, possibly waiting for more incriminating evidence to come out, such as with those OLC memos.

    Now, right now, too many people in the country feel that Bush did nothing wrong. I do believe these people are sadly mistaken. And it’s my hope/opinion that as more evidence comes forward, the public outcry will force the AG the uphold the law and defend the Constitution.

    While we’re on the general subject, I am one of those who feels that the photos of abuse should be released to those who want to see them. I do not believe they should be locked up just because they will upset people. Of course they’ll upset people, they’re pictures of torture. Torture is supposed to upset people. It is my hope that enough Americans will be upset when they see what was done in our name that they will demand that AG Holder prosecute those who gave the orders.

    I also believe that the torture should be investigated to see if people exceeded the guidelines Jay Bybee tried to lay down (rather pathetically, I might add.) They admit to waterboarding three people, but I would not be surprised if more than that were subjected to that particular form of torture. Seriously, you just cannot believe anything that anyone in the Bush Administration says about what they did and how they did it. Their entire modus operandi was to keep the public from ever finding out the truth.

    I hope that answers your question, but if you’d like to hear more, I can pontificate all day. 🙂

    And thanks again for visiting my blog. Enjoy the song parodies.

    Comment by Wayne A. Schneider — April 30, 2009 @ 6:31 PM

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