The American Conservative ran my piece on the Military Commissions Act and how the torture scandal may finish off the Bush presidency in their December 18, 2006 issue.
My impression is that the full article will be online soon. Here’s the lead and conclusion:
Sins of Commission
By James Bovard
Have Republicans become the party of torture, secret prisons, and indefinite detention? In his speech last month on signing the Military Commissions Act, President Bush declared that the bill “sends a clear message… We will never back down from the threats to our freedom.” “Rough interrogation” (a.k.a. torture) in the name of freedom may be Bush’s clearest ideological legacy.
Bush endlessly reminds listeners that “the U.S. does not torture” and that “torture is not an American value.” But “What is torture?” is the Bush version of the Pontius Pilate question. Bush appears to be using the definition of torture crafted by Justice Department official John Yoo: if detainees weren’t maimed or killed, they weren’t tortured. And the Justice Department acts as if, even if detainees are killed during interrogations, it is best to treat the deaths as harmless errors………
President Bush has been able to seize nearly boundless power because his administration has been able to control what Americans know. But this control is crumbling. Democratic congressional investigations, court cases, and the military tribunals themselves could unearth far more damaging documents and photographs than anything seen thus far.
The MCA is “Enabling Act” legislation that preserves the appearance of law while empowering the commander in chief to do as he pleases. Bush’s torture policies may signal that he accepts the dicta of Richard Nixon: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” But the firewall of high approval ratings that buttressed Bush when the first Abu Ghraib photos leaked is gone. The media is exasperated with the administration’s penchant for secrecy. Much of Bush’s conservative intellectual bodyguard has given up the fight. It remains to be seen how much dunking, thumping, and cold water the Bush team can survive.
James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy and eight other books.