George W. Bush and his chamber of horrors
Original post made by Tom Teepen on Mar 11, 2008
By Tom Teepen
As the governor of Texas, George W. Bush was the king of the death house and now, as president, he's the king of the torture chamber as well. A matched set. So add another weighty clunker to the president's leaden legacy.
Bush was a happy executioner. He presided over 152 executions, a modern record for governors. He rejected clemency pleas from prisoners who were plainly retarded, about whose guilt there were serious doubts, for whom mitigating circumstances had been casually dismissed and whose lawyers had been inept to the point of clownishness.
Most notoriously, he signed off on the execution of Karla Faye Tucker, whose plea for a commutation to life imprisonment had drawn international support, including from Pope John Paul II. Bush, who has claimed wonders for his own religious conversion, dismissed hers indifferently and privately mocked her appeal for clemency as if it was a sour joke.
Now, building on that humane foundation, Bush has vetoed legislation that would have barred the CIA from using "harsh" interrogation methods. "Harsh" is a euphemism for torture, including waterboarding, the near-drowning which has been recognized as torture ever since its popularity with the Inquisition and which, until Bush, had been prosecuted in this country as the crime it obviously is.
The legislation would have held the CIA to interrogation methods approved in the U.S. Army field manual. Vetoing that move, Bush places our country outside international law, in effect discarding our treaty commitments under the Geneva Conventions.
Bush rejected the FBI's testimony that torture is unnecessary and often counterproductive and ignored the warning from Gen. David Petraeus that waterboarding and - here comes another euphemism - other interrogation "enchancements" put American POWs at heightened risk.
Announcing his veto, the president snubbed the firm stand against torture taken by the man he had embraced just hours earlier as his favored successor, Sen. John McCain.
Bush claims torture has prevented numerous terrorist attacks, but the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, says he has never heard of such an instance.
With this veto, Bush makes it clear that, beyond just scrambling to justify past lapses into torture after the fact, he emphatically wants torture to be cemented as national policy. Doing so, he adds a lurid extrusion to his astonishing claim that presidents, as commanders in chief, are beyond any control by Congress.
To champion torture, Bush has revolted allies and estranged them, thus compromising our options for their cooperation in intelligence, and he has ceded the high ground to moral claimants whose crowed indignation is often sly and tendentious but corrosive to our interests even so.
And most crucially, he has betrayed this country and its best values. We've never claimed to be perfect but neither, up until now, have we ever claimed a right to be evil.
Tom Teepen is a columnist for Cox Newspapers. He is based in Atlanta.
on Mar 11, 2008 at 4:38 pm
Torture is a really bad idea. It never generates reliable intelligence and is not a good use of tax dollars.
on Mar 14, 2008 at 12:59 am
I just have two comments:
1)If someone who is supposedly retarded is smart enough to be able to commit a murder, and has been convicted of the crime (first degree murder) in a proper trial, then they should have to pay the penalty. If the penalty is death, so be it.
2) Waterboarding is a humane and effective technique. It is only momentarily frightening, causes no physical harm and produces results quickly. I would be very happy if the worst treatment our enemies used against captives was waterboarding instead of the barbaric practices they employ - like sawing off the heads of their prisoners.
And for the record, the Geneva Convention held that unlawful combatants (like terrorists) could be summarily shot or hung without even a military tribunal or trial.
on Mar 14, 2008 at 4:08 pm
I know someone that was waterboarded, and it is surely torture. It would be an interesting experiment to waterboard the defenders of torture until they agree that it is torture, and see how long they can hold out. Drowning once is bad enough, drowning a hundred times in an afternoon is torture.