Running Jurisprudence Through the Shredder

It’s a popular rant to accuse George Bush of being the captain of the wrecking crew that’s trashed our international reputation and run the country aground on the rocks of special interest and debt. 60% of the country is no longer in his camp, if camp there exists.

My personal hunch is that the nation will be forgiving in its confusion come November 7th. The cowboy president who knows not how to ride will thus remain in the metaphoric, if not actual, saddle.

But it amuses me (in the most pessimistic sense) that Hewlett Packard is being taken apart on the rack of public scorn for tracing the phone records of its board members. Meanwhile, the Bush administration gets a pass on its totally unsupervised telephone interceptions—not on a ten-member board, but on the three hundred million of its citizens.
Nary a whimper. Wolf Blitzer defanged, Katie Couric enthralled.
The media breathlessly reports ‘negotiations’ between John McCain, Lindsey Graham, John Warner and the administration on torture during interrogations.  Negotiations, as if that dialog actually meant something positive in the protections of Constitutional and Geneva Convention rights.

As if law was not law, but the negotiable image of law.

Apparently, these meetings mean not a damned thing. The administration may still

  • Maintain the CIA program ‘to question the world’s most dangerous terrorists and to get their secrets’ (whatever the hell that means).
  • Proceed under an agreement that past violations of the Geneva Conventions would not result in criminal or civil legal action. That ought to go down well with the several low-ranked military now serving prison terms for their superior’s crimes. But it will cover Dick Cheney’s and Don Rumsfeld’s respective ass.
  • Give the president a dominant — but not exclusive — role in deciding which interrogation methods to cherry-pick from those permitted under Geneva Convention. Wonder what ‘not exclusive’ means. George’s gotta check with Cheney?
  • Neatly and conveniently, prohibit detainees from using the Geneva Conventions to challenge their imprisonment or seek civil damages for mistreatment. Thus, the Canadian citizen (Maher Arar, a since-proven innocent) America whisked off to a year of torture in Syria just has to suck it up and tell it to his children.

According to the Washington Post, CIA Director Michael Hayden told the agency

“If this language becomes law, the Congress will have given us the clarity and the support that we need to move forward with a detention and interrogation program.”

This language, whatever it may be, is of course withheld from we ordinary Americans. Dragging out the same old tired and battered excuse that it would be an alarming disclosure of state secrets, empowering our enemies. ‘Clarity and support’ are needed for the rogue activities of the CIA and Justice Department (past and present), but too hot for the American public to handle.

And we accept this shit. And so does our press, cable and network TV.
Dick Cheney recently made the comment that we need to ‘show we have the stomach’ for the continued wrecking of Iraq. What we’ve consistently shown a national jelly-belly for, is the protection of our own hard-fought constitutional rights, hostage to the paralyzing fear that another terrorist event may occur. The administration has fine-tuned that fear into a virtual mandate to emasculate the rule of law in America.

Which is okay with us, just so long as we can avoid another scary event and get on with the important things in life, like the super-exciting $4 prescriptions at Wal-Mart.

America got side-tracked somewhere just this side of 1945 and began to think it was owed instead of owing and who but good old Thomas Jefferson saw it coming?

“They (the citizenry) will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights.”

Which is a timely comment in this year 2006, some 229 years after Jefferson made the remark. This year the Forbes 400 most wealthy Americans, for the first time, includes (exclusively) billionaires.

Two office buildings destroyed in New York, 3,000 dead and the most powerful nation in the world paralyzed. Five years after the tragic event, we remain powerless to reaffirm the laws, ethics and optimism that made us great. Powerless as well, to stand up to a president and an administration with whom 60% of us disagree.

Almost as a side note,

“The administration envisions using the new rules in military trials that may involve some of the 14 key terrorism suspects whom Bush this month ordered transferred from secret CIA prisons to the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”

So, the new rules may involve some 14 detainees.
Unresolved, unspoken for and unrepresented (apparently) in these dicussions, are the 500+ detainees against whom no charges have yet been made, who may as well lie mouldering in some 15th century dungeon.

Bush doesn’t know what the hell to do with them, so he does nothing. Two more years of nothing and they become someone else’s can of worms.

John McCain knows as well as anyone that torture provides nothing of value information-wise. The CIA knows it, as does the Pentagon, as does every single expert who has studied the process.

“The White House has pressed for the legislation partly to obtain immunity from prosecution for government officials, including CIA interrogators, for past acts that degraded and humiliated detainees.”


“It also could help settle an intraparty fracas that worried GOP leaders in the run-up to the November elections.”

Intraparty fracas? This breakthrough is to help settle a fracas, a noisy quarrel before the election? Let’s cut to the chase and lay out the bottom line . . .

“Officials’ anxieties were provoked by a 10-year-old U.S. law, the War Crimes Act, that makes violations of the Geneva Conventions’ prohibitions on degrading and humiliating detainees, as well as actions that amount to “outrages upon personal dignity,” subject to felony prosecution. Senior military officials have told Congress those prohibitions were violated.”

The War Crimes Act has been violated by this President, Vice-President and Secretary of Defense, as well as hundreds under their instruction. The ‘breakthrough’ John McCain celebrates is essentially a get out of jail card for war crimes, blocking the road to trial and imprisonment. According to an administration spokesman,

“We kind of take the scenic route, but we get there.”


John, you and Lindsey and Elizabeth Taylor’s ex-husband must really be proud of yourselves.

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