23 April 2009

George W. Bush and Lady Justice

The United States Senate released a report yesterday that directly implicates senior members of the Bush administration in the use of torture. The report, the most detailed investigation yet into the background of "harsh interrogation," undermines the claim of administration officials that the abuse of prisoners in Iraq was solely the work of rogue military personnel. The report connects the dots from former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Guantanamo to Afghanistan and to Iraq. It states, "The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees." It also claims the administration rejected advice against the techniques from the military, who questioned both the morality and the reliability of information gained. The release of the report coincides with President Obama's setting the stage for possible prosecution of Bush officials.

Bush and his colleagues stand accused of a number of violations of American and international law, but the biggest offence goes deeper. It is the violation of the Rule of Law itself, one of the pillars of our civilization. The Rule of Law simply says we are ruled by laws, not men. Laws are made by men, of course, but once made, they are supreme, even over those who made them. Justice is blind, and therefore does not distinguish between the great and the small. We are, each and every one of us, equally subject to the law. Nowhere is this more important than at the top. The greatest benefit, indeed the prime purpose, of the Rule of Law is to protect society against arbitrary rule. And the Bush administration was very arbitrary, making up the rules as it went along and abandoning U.S. and international law on the way.

Now Americans must decide. Will they allow George W. Bush and his constitutional bandits to get away with breaking not only the law but with fracturing its very foundation? Will they allow the murderers of 9/11, who no doubt intended to assault American values, succeed in undermining one its most fundamental principles? It appears President Obama may be preparing to say no.

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