Commandant-in-Chief

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Should we be
thanking God for the wisdom and judgment of our wartime president
George W. Bush?

Or not?

Once upon a
time in a country now long gone, a squishy General George Washington
made the humane treatment of captured British soldiers a primary
strategic objective of the Revolutionary War.

A while later
in 1863, a namby-pamby Abraham Lincoln established the first code
of conduct proscribing any kind of torture or cruelty; it was this
code that formed the basis for the 1929 Geneva Convention.

More contemporary
wimps like Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas McArthur were similarly
stodgy about not tolerating torture or cruelty, foolishly insisting
that such a ban constitutes bedrock American value.

And when you
get right down to it, torture is a lot like sausage and law-making.

If you ever
have to watch how either actually get made, you'll never want to
have anything to do with the finished product again.

Just listen
to what one former military interrogator, retired U.S. Army Specialist
Tony Lagouranis, had to say:

"Well,
hypothermia was a widespread technique. [Some people] were using
just ice water to lower the body temperature of the prisoner. They
would take his rectal temperature to make sure he didn’t die; they
would keep him hovering on hypothermia. A lot of other not as common
techniques…was (sic) just beating people or burning them. Not within
prisons usually. But when the units would go out into people's homes
and do these raids, they would just stay in the house and torture
them."

All-American
stuff, that.

Former chief
of staff to Colin Powell, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, has stated that
top officials, including the president, had to have in effect given
permission for the torture to occur.

"You don't
have this kind of pervasive attitude out there," Wilkerson
said, "unless you've condoned it."

But that’s
not to say that Bush's pro-torture policy hasn't had more than its
share of tough-luck stories.

Shucks, no.

The Department
of Defense recently informed the Red Cross that somewhere between
70 to 90 percent of the detainees were entirely innocent.

Whoopsee.

As many as
15,000 prisoners may be held at various facilities from Guantanamo
to Diego Garcia, and many more places in between.

Habeas corpus?
Nosiree.

And if you
take the word of Col. Austin Schmidt, who was in charge of operations
at Camp Bucca detainee facility in Iraq, a good percentage of these
people may be guilty of no wrongdoing whatsoever, let alone terrorism.

Schmidt estimates
that one in four detainees are probably innocent.

"[They]
perhaps were just snagged in a dragnet-type operation or were victims
of personal vendettas," Schmidt said. "This is like Chicago
in the '30s. You don't like somebody, you drop a dime on them."

The average
stay for prisoners at Camp Bucca, whether guilty and the innocent,
is one year.

Whether detainees
had that kind of time, or not.

But Camp Bucca
is but one of the many "official" prisons scattered around
the globe, and it may be a country club compared to at least one
alternative variety.

So-called "ghost
prisoners" are sent to "ghost prisons," frequently
in U.S. allied nations known to torture detainees on a routine basis.
The fate of the denizens of these foreign dungeons is anyone's guess.

Boo.

Since 9/11
George Bush has made lots of leafy speeches about exporting democracy
— usually and I’m sure coincidentally — to places with lots of proven
oil reserves or that oil pipelines must cross — where doubtless
it is needed most.

He vows to
win the war on terror with zero in the way of specificity as to
how this eventuality will come to pass, let alone when.

And so far
he has completely whiffed Osama bin Laden.

Whiff.

All of this
can be chalked up to gross incompetence. Condoning torture cannot,
and while George Bush and his multitudinous pseudo-conservative
apologists may not much like it, a pretty recent history lesson
is well in order at this stage of the proceedings.

In his book
Hitler's
Prisons
, Nikolaus Wachsman wrote: "Various police activities
during the seizure of power clearly damaged legal authority. Indefinite
detention without due judicial process is incompatible with the
rule of law. But on the whole, there were no loud complaints or
protests from legal officials."

Well, the time
for legal officials, and everybody else, to commence loudly complaining
has arrived.

And the very
simple question that must be answered is: "Are we still a nation
of laws, Or not?"

Right now it
doesn't much look like it.

Professing
high moral values while condoning torture will make the United States
a house divided that is doomed to fall, not to mention a world pariah.
And a president who breaks the law — even our occasionally costumed
wartime George — must be held accountable.

As for me,
I'm in no mood to thank God for much of anything George Bush has
done lately, unless he has suddenly decided to resign.

October
11, 2006

Sean
Lanham [send him mail] is a native Texan from Fort Worth. In 19789
he earned a B.S.B.A. with a concentration in economics from the
University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

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