Tonight, hundreds of thousands of people (if not a million or so) are braving the freezing temperatures of Washington, D.C., in celebration of the passing from the old to the new. The Bush family is, presumably, spending their last night at the White House tonight, before “checking out” around 11:00.
As the vast majority of the world population looks to tomorrow and the following days with hope, let us not mince words about one particular loose end left behind by the Bush White House.
Of particular interest to me is the one thing (and associated elements) that has done more to lower our standing as a “beacon of justice and hope” in the world: the military
camp “prison” at Guantanamo Bay, aka Gitmo.
Early last week, Judge Susan J Crawford, senior official for the Pentagon’s military commissions said that interrogators tortured a detainee, Mohammed Al-Qhatani, at Guantánamo Bay and because of this fact, he could not be prosecuted:
“His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case [for prosecution]” ((Source: The New York Times, January 14, 2009))
“The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge” [to call it torture]. ((Source: The Washington Post))
Now let’s think about that for a moment. The techniques used were all authorized, that is to say, individually, they (presumably) do not meet the Geneva Convention definition of torture. They may be uncomfortable (sleep depravation) or humiliating (forced to act like a dog, especially while naked), even frightening (waterboarding), but they are not torturous per say, as opposed to shoving bamboo slivers under the fingernails, for instance, or the practice of “bastonade”, the beating of the soles of the feet, still practiced in many countries.
So when Vice President Cheney and President Bush categorically denied the use of “torture”, based on the techniques employed, they were correct.
The problem is that the techniques were employed in a manner that was prolonged, to the point that they became detrimental to his health. Literally. He was twice rushed to the emergency with a heart rate at 35 beats per minutes.
To further emphasize the problem with this kind of treatment, Crawford, in an interview, explained:
“There’s no doubt in my mind he would’ve been on one of those planes had he gained access to the country in August 2001. He’s a muscle hijacker.” ((ref:1))
In other words, the odds are very good that Al-Qhatani would have been found guilty in a court of law, except that his coerced, tortured admissions are not admissible in a court of law and therefore are useless to us, and to the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families.
Keith Olbermann, in his “Special Comment” tonight, pointed out that the exposure of this ruling, combined with various comments from both Cheney and, especially, Bush, amount to an admission of guilt on the part of the 43rd Administration.
That makes Guantanamo, the fate of all the detainees there, and the criminal investigation of those in charge a loose end that must be tied, so that it may be put to rest.
In consideration of the fact that:
The United States is a signatory of the Geneva Convention;
President Bush admitted to knowing certain methods, later determined to be acts of torture, were being used;
Torture is unreliable, immoral, and illegal both by our own Constitution and by the Geneva Convention;
This country does not accept “I didn’t know it was illegal” as a defense;
I submit that the administration of Barack Obama must investigate and, from there, determine which laws if any were broken, and pursue the suspects to the fullest extent of the law.
This is the only thing that can bring tarnish the memory of Obama’s Presidency in the annals of American, even human, history. Whether or not he manages to turn around the economy, or inject a real spirit of hope and change and dynamic renewal in the United States, any refusal to do the right thing by the people of this country will become a blemish on his legacy.
Let’s put this into a broader historical context.
The United States began as a revolution, a repudiation of the acts of a previous ruler, George V. Less than a century later, the conflict between states’ rights and slavers’ rights, between the ideals of “All men are created equal” and Jefferson’s “State’s rights” as described in the Kentucky Resolution which rove—directly or indirectly—much of politics during that time, eventually led to the eruption of the American Civil War, which in turn eventually led to the Emancipation Proclamation.
“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”
Still the taint of slavery was not erased. From the various compromises with rights of minorities in the south to the Loving v. Virginia ruling, to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., our hope for the future has always depended on our ability to right the wrongs of the past until, on this day, one Barack Obama may stand and take the oath of office, confirming him as the leader of the nation.
If there are no more excuses for the Blacks of America to claim an inferiority imposed on them from the majority, there are none, either, for a government to claim sustainable progress can be maintained without humility, self-evaluation, and, above all, accountability.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
((Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address ))
These words could have been addressed to the American people on September 12th, 2001.
These words were the unresolved promise of Martin Luther King’s dream, and would have resonated in the hearts of those who directly mourned his death.
These words, handed down to us through a century and a half of American history, have shaped this nation until, on this day, we can at last see the light of a true, democratic renewal of freedom.
In giving birth to this new freedom, it is incumbent upon we, the people, to demand that a government which we have repudiated at the polls be held accountable for all the horrors they blithely perpetrated in our name. Our only method of doing so goes through our new government.
Mr. President-Elect, I call upon you—in the midst of what I know is a very full plate—to do the right thing. Please, investigate the actions of the previous administration, so that we may truly be set free by the truth, and move forward, cleansed, with a “more perfect union”. Once that is achieved, and justice has been served, then will the dreams of our forefathers truly begin to be fulfilled.
“When love is realized and the ideal spiritual bonds unite the hearts of
men, the whole human race will be uplifted, the world will continually grow
more spiritual and radiant and the happiness and tranquillity of mankind be
immeasurably increased. Warfare and strife will be uprooted, disagreement
and dissension pass away and Universal Peace unite the nations and peoples
of the world. All mankind will dwell together as one family, blend as the
waves of one sea, shine as stars of one firmament and appear as fruits of
the same tree. This is the happiness and felicity of humankind. This is the
illumination of man, the glory eternal and life everlasting; this is the
divine bestowal. I desire this station for you and I pray God that the
people of America may achieve this great end in order that the virtue of
this democracy may be insured and their names be glorified eternally.”
((Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith p. 230))
May God bless America, and the entire human race.