Saturday, December 18, 2010

Part 3: Bush and Matt Lauer Nov. 8, 2010 - the Unrepentant Torturer Justifies His Criminal Actions

Scapegoating the Bad Apples

Rumsfeld and Bush’s theory of an “exceptional, isolated” incident of “disgraceful conduct by a few American troops” has been proven incomplete, but Bush continues to assert that the bad apples were solely responsible for disgracing the military and staining “our good name.” Bush reasserted his theory in a recent interview with Matt Lauer on NBC, November 8, 2010:

LAUER: It was the spring of 2004 when you first learned that American soldiers operating as guards at a prison called Abu Ghraib had terribly mistreated prisoners. Can you just give me your first reaction, your first emotions when you heard the news?

BUSH: Sick to my stomach. Not only have they mistreated prisoners, they had disgraced the U.S. military and stained our good name. (Bush and Lauer 2010)

After reemphasizing the bad apple theory he commented on the high character of Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld:

BUSH: Yeah. I-- because I wasn't aware of the graphic nature of the pictures until later on. And some people in the White House expressed that (laughs) my view into the newspapers, which then caused Secretary Rumsfeld to come in and offer his resignation.

LAUER: Twice.

BUSH: Yeah, which speaks to his character.

LAUER: How would you rate that decision? To keep Rumsfeld in that position when he offered his resignation?

BUSH: I think it was the right decision to make. (Bush and Lauer 2010)

In 2002, Rumsfeld personally approved “coercive interrogation techniques, including inducing stress by use of detainee's fears (e.g. dogs), for Guantanamo. He jots on a memo, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours?” (Lowrey 2009, 4) The interrogation techniques, approved on December 2, 2002, were implemented at Guantanamo Bay on April 16, 2003 and were introduced to LTG Ricardo Sanchez, commander of all military units in Iraq, in August of 2003 (Lowrey 2009, Schlesinger 2004, Mestrovic 2007). The migration of these policies, from Guantanamo to Iraq, created the environment in which the photographed abuses could exist. By continually framing the Abu Ghraib scandal as an isolated incident of a few soldiers, Bush keeps the focus off his policies and the systemic abuse of detainees throughout the military.

The bad apples remain the scapegoat for the Bush administration and they remain the only individuals to be held accountable for one outcome implementation of policies that violated international law. Amnesty International has since declared that “Bush’s interrogation paradigm constituted the most significant attack on international law in 50 years, adding that the United States had condoned ‘atrocious’ human rights violations, thereby diminishing its moral authority and setting a global example encouraging torture by other nations.” (Hamm 2007, 268) Still, there has been little attempt to hold the Bush administration accountable for what would usually be considered war crimes (Hamm 2007, 266). George Bush remains unrepentant about his decisions and maintains that the enhanced interrogation techniques were justified because they provided the military with information that prevented another attack on the United States (Bush and Lauer 2010).

Unrepentant Torture Authorizer

During the interview with Matt Lauer, Bush justified his authorization of waterboarding by arguing his case through three debates on torture – the moral, utility, and legal debates. These are the same arguments he used in 2006 when he urged, “For the sake of our security, Congress needs to act and update our laws to meet the threats of this new era, and I know they will.” (Bush 2006, 10) First, employing the moral argument, Bush claims that “using those techniques saved lives” thus waterboarding was justified (Bush and Lauer 2010) Second, Bush used the utility argument when he confirmed that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded 183 times (Bush and Lauer 2010). This is similar to a 2006 speech, when he cited the waterboarding of Abu Zubahdah as the means to locate Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (Bush 2006). In the same speech he claimed that:

Another reason the terrorists have not succeeded is because our government has changed its policies and given our military, intelligence and law enforcement personnel the tools they need to fight this enemy and protect our people and preserve our freedoms. (Bush 2006, 1)

And that:

This intelligence -- this is intelligence that cannot be found any other place. And our security depends on getting this kind of information. To win the war on terror, we must be able to detain, question and, when appropriate, prosecute terrorists captured here in America and on the battlefields around the world. (Bush 2006, 2)

The Bush administration continues to argue their policies are justified even though they violated the Geneva Conventions. Their justification rest on the claim the war on terror is a new kind of war that rendered the Geneva Conventions obsolete. In 2001, Dick Cheney, while be interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” commented

We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.” (Human Rights Watch 2005, 9)

Six months after Cheney’s comment, Bush issued his executive order “denying Taliban and al Qaeda detainees the protections afforded under the Geneva Conventions, saying that the United States needs new thinking in the law of war.” (Lowrey 2009, 2)

The third justification is legal and the “new thinking” and “new war” of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez, Jay Bybee, and George Bush is the basis of the argument. Bush describes why waterboarding is legal in the interview:

BUSH: We believe America's going to be attacked again. There's all kinds of intelligence comin' in. And-- and-- one of the high value al Qaeda operatives was Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the chief operating officer of al Qaeda… ordered the attack on 9/11. And they say, "He's got information." I said, "Find out what he knows.” And so I said to our team, "Are the techniques legal?" He says, "Yes, they are." And I said, "Use 'em."

LAUER: Why is waterboarding legal, in your opinion?

BUSH: Because the lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act. I'm not a lawyer, but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you and I do. (Bush and Lauer 2010)

According Bush’s definition, what made his policy legal was that the Office of Legal Council (OLC) said it was legal. The administration built its legal case from the belief that a “new enemy” and a “new war” required interrogation techniques that did not fit within the “narrow limitations” of the Geneva Conventions. They wrote legal briefs and redefined terms to render Geneva obsolete. This justification of torture is what the 1985 UN Convention Against Torture was designed to prevent: “The torture convention also makes clear that ‘no exceptional circumstances…may be invoked as a justification of torture.’” (Hamm 2007, 265, 266)

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