Last week, we wrote of the Bush Faction’s increasingly successful drive to establish the principle of unlimited presidential authority — beyond the reach of any law or constitutional restriction — as the new foundation of a militarist American state. This relentless push toward autocracy gained even more strength in recent days, in two cases centering on what has emerged as the very core of President George W. Bush’s authoritarian philosophy: torture.
Vice President Dick Cheney was dispatched to Congress last week to strong-arm three Republican senators seeking to place the mildest limitations imaginable on Bush’s power to do whatever he wants with his captives in “the war on terror,” The Washington Post reports. The proposed amendments to the defense budget would simply require interrogators to follow whatever procedures the Pentagon establishes for questioning prisoners and to register all captives with the International Red Cross. A third provision would take the radical step of prohibiting “cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment” of anyone in custody — behavior that is already expressly forbidden in U.S. law.
But Cheney brought hard words from on high for the tepid trio: Bush will veto any attempt by Congress to place any fetters on his arbitrary power over the captives in his worldwide gulag. The grim-visaged veep put it plainly: Such legislation would “restrict the President’s authority” to conduct the terror war as he sees fit, and thus cannot be tolerated. The whole defense budget will be tossed into the toilet if the amendments are attached, Cheney thundered.
This would be the first veto of Bush’s presidency: a mark of the supreme importance he places on his ability to seize people without charges, hold them indefinitely, break their bodies and their minds, then dispose of them as he pleases. This power is obviously more important to him than the defense of the nation itself. But what’s most striking about this case is the fact that the amendments — sponsored by ersatz “maverick” John McCain, among others — are actually part of the process of establishing an open, “legal” structure for Bush’s unrestricted “commander-in-chief state.”
The measure is an attempt to lend congressional legitimacy to the Bush gulag, as co-sponsor Lindsey Graham made clear. “We need congressional buy-in to Guantanamo,” Graham said bluntly. He also noted that the amendments would recognize and support Bush’s power to establish his own private judicial system: the rigged “military tribunals” for anyone Bush has arbitrarily designated an “enemy combatant.” What’s more, the measure exempts the CIA — which runs the gulag’s most secret quadrants — from almost all of its provisions.
As for “cruel punishment,” recent history shows that current U.S. laws against such practices have hardly deterred the Bush Faction’s yen for torture. The White House simply redefines the meaning of “torture” to suit its needs of the moment. In 2002, a series of memos crafted by Bush’s legal minions virtually defined torture out of existence. Only the deliberate attempt to murder a prisoner or maim him for life was considered beyond the pale, they said; everything else was fair game. Later, when the Abu Ghraib atrocities drew some brief media heat in an election year, the Pentagon issued a few new restrictions on barbarity for public consumption — although once again, the CIA was pointedly exempted from restraint. McCain’s redundant and rather pathetic proposal, asking the Bushists to please obey laws that already exist, would doubtless be subjected to the same weasel-wording treatment.
So why put the kibosh on this gutless, toothless bill? It’s simple. The autocratic principle cannot accept any institutional infringement on the Leader’s arbitrary power — not even a craven accommodation like McCain’s measure. Yes, Congress may rubber-stamp the gulag (“a buy-in to Guantanamo”); that’s allowed. And Congress may approve funding for the gulag. But the people’s representatives must have no say whatsoever in the gulag’s operations. To give way on this point would reintroduce the rule of law and genuine democracy to U.S. government. And the Bush militarists have gone too far, waded through too much blood, to return to such “quaint” notions now.
Likewise, the idea of judicial oversight of the executive must also be refuted. Even as Cheney was chastising Congress, the Bushists were blatantly defying a federal court order to release 87 photographs and four videos of last year’s Abu Ghraib mayhem. These depict barbarities that even Pentagon warlord Don Rumsfeld once described as “blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane,” Editor & Publisher reports. A Republican senator who saw the material spoke of “rape and murder.” Bush simply refused to obey the federal court, saying he would provide an explanation for his actions — in secret — at some later date.
But there is more. Eyewitnesses have said the pictures show the rape and brutal abuse of young teenagers and children. The filmed evidence is corroborated by the Pentagon’s own investigators. Yet in all this time — and in all the show trials of low-ranking “bad apples” the Bushists have staged — not a single person has been charged or even reprimanded for these abominations.
This is the power that Bush declares cannot be restricted by courts or Congress or any law on earth: the power to torture, to murder, to terrorize — and to rape children. This is the dark, filthy heart of his militarist state.
With each new atrocity on every side in the hydra-headed “war on terror,” you think that now, perhaps, we’ve reached the bottom. But never believe that comforting notion. The evil that has opened up beneath our feet is bottomless, and we are falling deeper, fathom by fathom, into the pit. The worst, far worse, is yet to come.
White House Aims to Block Legislation on Detainees
The Washington Post, July 23, 2005
Pentagon Blocks Release of Abu Ghraib Images: Here’s Why
Editor and Publisher, July 23, 2005
US Defies Order to Give Up Abu Ghraib Photos
New York Times, July 23, 2005
Iraq’s Child Prisoners
Scotland Sunday Herald, Aug. 1, 2004
Bush’s Torture Policies: Suffer the Little Children-
Corrente.com, July 24, 2005
Introducing Judge Dread: The Affable Accomplice of a Coup d’etat
Empire Burlesque, July 20, 2005