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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bush Signs Detainee Torture Bill, Turns the US into a Nation of Cowards

It's official. There is now an exception to justice in the United States. For all intents and purposes, the Bush administration can arrest anyone in the world for any reason and keep them in prison indefinitely. There's only one catch -- the president has to claim the person arrested is a 'terrorist suspect.'

Luckily for Bush, he isn't required to actually prove anything and the arrested -- now referred to as a 'detainee' -- has no way to challenge it. Being declared a 'terrorist suspect' is a trial and sentence in itself.

Reading the opening paragraph of the Associated Press, you'd get the idea that the bill Bush signed yesterday was about putting terrorists on trial.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some of the most notorious names in the war on terror are headed toward prosecution after President Bush signed a law Tuesday authorizing military trials of terrorism suspects.

Apparently, there used to be some sort of magic shield around terrorists that kept law enforcement from bringing them into an actual court of law or something. Damned terrorists with their special protections!

People overseas got a much different idea of what the legislation means.

Agence France-Presse:

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President George W. Bush signed a controversial law allowing secret overseas CIA prisons, harsh interrogation tactics, and military trials as weapons against suspected terrorists.

I forget, are we still supposed to hate the french? It's so hard to keep up. Now, we can arrest them all, lock them up in Syria, and force feed them freedom fries -- that's absolutely legal now. I suppose that it'd be in violation of international law, but that's not so important. In fact, the bill gives Bush the power to interpret international law. Sweet, huh?

Imagine if you had the power to interpret law any way you want -- "Your honor, it's my interpretation of the statute that robbing a bank at gunpoint isn't theft, but what I call an 'aggressive borrowing strategy'."

Naysayers have been busy saying nay. Sen. Russ Feingold, always an annoying voice of reason, said, "We will look back on this day as a stain on our nation's history." The ACLU said the bill was "one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history." And this, from AFP:

Democratic Representative Ed Markey said that the legislation "will not make us more secure," charging it would raise the risk US military personnel will be tried overseas, undermine the Geneva Convention and provide "retroactive immunity" to US interrogators who may have committed war crimes.

And then there's torture. Bush denies the law allows torture. "This bill complies with both the spirit and the letter of our international obligations. As I've said before, the United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values," Bush said.

But Bush's definition of what constitutes torture may not be the commonly accepted one. In 1967, Bush defended the use of a red hot coat hanger as a branding iron for fraternity pledges in the New York Times, saying it was 'only a cigarette burn' in terms of severity. I guess that means that branding isn't torture -- and neither is burning people with lit cigarettes.

"The ongoing abuses of power that we have seen by the current administration must stop," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "The America we hold in our hearts and our minds is one of fairness, justice and the rule of law; all principles that we have seen this administration betray time and again."

So here we are. Like Syria, Saudi Arabia, N. Korea, and even Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the United States has joined the club of brutal sons of bitches who use torture. Like China, the Soviet Union, and -- again -- Saddam Hussein's Iraq, we can arrest and imprison anyone we deem an 'enemy of the state' (renamed 'terrorist suspect') and keep them without any access to the courts. Once you've been called a terrorist suspect, you're pretty much screwed. There is literally no way for you to prove your innocence -- the proclamation of suspicion is now proof of guilt. There is no limit to how long you can be 'detained' without trial. The president says that his 'war on terror' is a 'generational struggle', so there's no reason to believe he couldn't keep you for life -- without trial.

Someone needs to remind these sons of bitches that this is America. We stand for freedom and justice, not torture and indefinite detention. If we fold up shop and quit the freedom business, what the hell will we be defending? Bush tells us that if we quit Iraq, the soldiers who've died there will have 'died in vain.'

What about all the soldiers who've died actually defending the principles of freedom and justice, Mr. President? I can tell you -- beyond any doubt at all -- that no soldier died at Normandy hoping congress would give a future president the same powers as the freakin' Gestapo. There was no banner at Valley Forge that read, "Justice only when it's convenient." What about all those who've fought and died for the principles of liberty you and your pet congress find an annoying impediment? Wouldn't those soldiers have died in vain if we abandon everything they fought for?

And abandon them why? Out of fear. If we look back at history, there are two messages that great american leaders have delivered to the people in times of peril -- "Be courageous" and "Be just." Lincoln appealed to the 'better angels of our nature' to heal the wounds of civil war. FDR told us that fear was our greatest enemy.

President Bush's message boils down to three points, "Be timid, be silent, and be more concerned with your own safety than anyone else's." This man will never appeal to our courage or our sense of justice. He always tries to exploit our fears. In signing the bill, Bush gave a speech. It was only the second paragraph before he mentioned 9/11. 'Courage' is mentioned zero times. 'Justice' is mentioned six times, but only as a synonym for 'punishment'. Find and replace 'justice' with 'punishment' and it changes the meaning of the speech not at all.

'Bravery', zero. 'Fairness', zero. 'Sacrifice', zero. But September eleventh is mentioned eight times.

Why does the president believe americans are cowardly, instead of heroic? Maybe because he's using himself as a model.


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