The Torture President

When the sickening images from Abu Ghraib first graced our television sets in 2004, we were assured by everyone and their twin sister that George W. Bush was as shocked and surprised as anyone. We were told he had not seen any documentation of the torture and/or fraternity hazing going on there, and that he was going to root out the “few bad apples” that had been involved.

Of course, the Bush administration valiantly rooted out those few bad apples, ignoring the poisoned tree they were growing from. I’m sure that it will surprise nobody that the poison that tree was drinking in was the Bush administration’s own special brand of evil (another fine product from Halliburton!), and that it was being poured liberally with the full knowledge of Donald Rumsfeld and the president himself.


And when you’re the guilty party, you’re not going to expend much effort finding the guilty party. Just as OJ Simpson hasn’t broken a sweat in his search for the real killers, the Bush administration actively impeded the investigation of Gen. Antonio Taguba, who was told flatly not to investigate any higher up the chain of command than Abu Ghraib itself. Of course, that’s sort of contrary to the idea of weeding out actual bad apples, as Sy Hersh noted on CNN:

Here’s Hersh talking to Wolf Blitzer on CNN yesterday: “The question you have to ask about the president is this: No matter when he learned — and certainly he learned before it became public — and no matter how detailed it was, is there any evidence that the president of the United States said to Rumsfeld, ‘What’s going on there, Don? Let’s get an investigation going.’

“Did he do anything? Did he ask for a — did he want to have the generals come in and talk to him about it? Did he want to change the rules? Did he want to improve the conditions?

“BLITZER: And what’s the answer?

“HERSH: Nada. He did nothing. . . .

But of course he did nothing. For most of us, Abu Ghraib was a terrible thing, the moment at which we realized that we as a nation had surrendered the high moral ground we’d managed to hold onto through an existential war against Germany, and through the long twilight of the Cold War. We didn’t have an unblemished record, to be sure, but we viewed those failures as failures — America aspired to be better, and most of us believed that we were better.

Abu Ghraib told us that we weren’t better. It told us, indeed, that we were worse. That our moral peers were no longer the UK and Japan, but instead Kazakhstan and Iran. We soon learned all the lingo — extraordinary rendition, waterboarding, enhanced interrogation techniques — but we knew when we saw those photographs what we as a nation had become.

We had become agents of torture.

A different man would have stood up at that moment and risked his presidency to save his nation’s soul. A different man would have condemned torture in the strongest terms, and worked to root it out, whatever may come. A different man, an actual leader, would have found a way to reclaim the sympathy and support our nation had received after 9/11, instead of squandering it on sadism.

But of course, that man would not be George W. Bush, because this was his plan. Whether it was he himself who came up with it, or whether he just signed off on something Cheney or Rummy pushed across his desk, George W. Bush embraced torture. He embraced it even after we saw what that torture meant. He embraces it to this very day. Indeed, most of the men competing to succeed him as the GOP nominee are downright giddy at the possibility of creating their own Abu Ghraibs and Guantanamos.

And for the rest of us, we can only hope that 2008 brings sanity back to our nation, and an end to this nightmare — for ourselves, yes, but mostly for those we are torturing at this very minute, somewhere out there in the dark, whose photos we will never see.



Filed under 10_jeff_fecke

10 responses to “The Torture President

  1. Pingback: Blog of the Moderate Left » The Torture President

  2. A different man, an actual leader, would have found a way to reclaim the sympathy and support our nation had received after 9/11, instead of squandering it on sadism.

    Yes. A different man indeed. An actual leader. What we needed then, and what we desperately need now–more than ever in history.

    Absolutely superb post, Jeff.

  3. How do you say “Bravo” about a post on such a disggusting subject? But I do mean it no matter how warped it sounds. Well done man.

  4. Dennis - SGMM

    Very eloquent post on a very dispiriting subject. Bush has not only squandered our monetary capital, he’s squandered our moral capital as well.

    Lamentably, I don’t see any actual leaders among the presidential candidates on either side. I didn’t expect anything from the Republicans but not one Democrat has had the courage to call out Bush for the lying, anti-Constitutional, reckless nutcase that he is. If they don’t have the courage to lay into a President whose popularity stands at 29% then I doubt that they have sufficient grit to deal effectively with all of the disasters that he’ll leave at the White House doorstep when his term ends.

  5. GayAsXmas

    As much as I agree with Jeff, I am not sure you can really hold the UK up to such a high regard. Sure, nothing quite as horrible as Abu Ghraib was perpetrated by UK soldiers, but Blair’s horribly craven attitude and the increasing evidence of allowing rendition flights through its airspace means that even we are left with significant blood on our hands.

  6. amish451

    We are betrayed …and George W. Bush is the betrayer…

    I invite all to read the Hersh post on General Taguba’s report at truthout (The General’s Report – Seymour Hersh) if you have not already…Bush knew and he knew well before most of us. I believe that if ‘someone’ had not leaked the photos, these guys would have sat on the shame forever…

  7. amish451

    And further; kudos to the new guy Jeff, and Mistress Melissa..a most excellent post ..

  8. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    I want to say something to my fellow citizens who voted for the Chimperor or couldn’t be bothered to get off their sorry, lazy arses and vote at all. To quote Jim Morrison in Miami, “YOU’RE ALL A BUNCH OF FUCKIN’ IDIOTS!” I wish I could dye my white skin another color so I did not have to admit belonging to the same ethnocultural group as the vacuum-skulled wastes of food, water, and oxygen that are the Stupid White Folks of the USA.

  9. Kate217

    I have war crime trial fantasies….

  10. amish451

    “I have war crime trial fantasies…”

    As do so many of us, the dissenting 71% ……….

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