Bush’s Torture Ticking Time Bomb

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.


5 Responses to Bush’s Torture Ticking Time Bomb

  1. John Lowell December 3, 2006 at 11:27 pm #

    Happy to learn that TAC will be running your piece, Jim. It needs running, believe me. As a Catholic, I’m particularly sad to report that even in some quarters of the self-described “orthodox” Catholic blogosphere, not unexpectedly the self same parts that have resently offered support for pre-emptive war logic in opposition to the perspective of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, a slick and nauseating apologetic for torture has begun to appear. These folks, together with their Christian Zionist Einsatzgruppen pals, make for a kind of latter day Reichs Church, just the right audience one might find for the “Enabling Act” legislation to which you refer. I’m beginning to despair that the MCA will survive the new Congress. I’m pessimistic about our ever recovering our democracy.

    John Lowell

  2. Jim December 3, 2006 at 11:36 pm #

    John – I have been surprised at how many religious folks have spoken up in defense of torture — or at least offered all sorts of extenuating rationales for barbarism.

    Don’t know if we can revive a functioning Republic but I expect the next few months should offer some damn good entertainment either way.

  3. John Lowell December 4, 2006 at 12:36 am #

    There is a observable relegation of the faith to the hindmost among such people, Jim, and a curious absolutization of the political. Even on life questions where the convictions of the main players are so well known there have been capitulations to the Regime when it was felt politically necessary, notably Fr. Neuhaus’ reluctance to criticize the Bush stem-cell compromise when the Vatican had in 2001 or James Dobson’s outspoken support of it. And on the matter of pre-emptive war there have been no louder supporting voices than those of these two. Now comes this torture apologetic in the Catholic blogosphere. What torture has to do with Jesus Christ utterly escapes me.

    John Lowell

  4. Jim December 4, 2006 at 4:41 pm #

    Clyde Wilson originally posted a comment to my prior blog after he saw the hard copy version of this torture story. With his OK, I am reposting his comment and my reply here:

    Clyde N. Wilson
    Comment on Sunday 3rd December 2006 @ 2:13 pm

    Mr. Bovard, I am a great admirer of your books and other writings but want to politely take acception to your aticle in the Dec. 28 TAC on torture. You refer to the horrid MCA as the most disgraceful act since the Fugitive Slave Law. Like most Americans, you overlook the use of military commissions (including unjustified and indefinite imprisonment and execution) by the U.S. Government against Southern civilians in the period 1861–1876. Everything done and proposed by Bush was done under Lincoln and Grant, except that it was used against American civilians and not foreign soldiers.

    I replied to his comment:  How many of the atrocities by the Union forces 1861+ were authorized by specific acts of Congress?

  5. Saturdaynightspecial December 5, 2006 at 12:14 am #

    For this alone, Bush should be impeached. Anyway, this is the true nature of neoconservative – butchers in the name of a god. Now we know these people leading our country are as dumb as animals. And, that Preacher Wilson was just as bad.

    And get this: Democrats will behave as though they would never do this, but the truth is it’s just an excuse to gain power. All this is the true nature of this country.

    I’ll bet Jose Padilla had zero information to offer the CIA.