George Bush will never bask on a beach in Thailand. Dick Cheney will never tour Pompeii. Donald Rumsfeld will never see the Sistine Chapel. These men don’t dare travel even to Canada. Why? Because these men risk being arrested and put on trial for war crimes if they set foot outside the United States.
How could the civilized world be so anti-American? How dare foreigners threaten and persecute these heros of the Global War on Terror?
Because they deserve it.
This isn’t vicious lies, liberal propaganda, or bitter envy of American success. It’s the simple application of the rule of law based on unequivocal evidence.
These men not only authorized the torture of prisoners of war, they bragged about it. Not one of them has expressed one iota of remorse. Not one of them has asked to be forgiven.
What did they do, exactly?
First, they abducted people off the streets of foreign countries simply because other people pointed a finger at them. Sometimes under torture, sometimes for money, sometimes out of long enmity. There was no proof that these people had done anything wrong. It doesn’t take much logic to deduce that some of these people are true enemies of America, but others are completely innocent. Most likely many of them did no more than hold opinons about the war that were no different than many Americans who disagreed with the administration.
Second, they interred these people in Guantanamo, an American military base in Cuba. They had no proof of that they had committed any crime, either in their own country or under American law or under international law, so the Bush administration didn’t dare bring them back to American soil where they might have access to the American legal system. By holding them in a foreign country, they could deny them all human rights. No lawyers. No courts. No due process. No habeas corpus. No rights whatsoever.
Their justification for their thuggish behavior was that the men were “enemy combatants” captured in America’s “Global War on Terror”. Foolishly, they thought that using those weasel words instead of saying “prisoners of war” would excuse them from international law.
They are wrong. Under international law, someone who may or may not fulfil the requirements of a prisoner of war must still be accorded the same humanitarian treatment until such time as his status has been clarified in a legal proceeding.
Therefore, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld opened up a large can of worms. The United States is signatory to international agreements, such as the Third Geneva Convention of 1949, about how prisoners of war will be treated. There is also a considerable body of common international law about the treatment of prisoners of war.
Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld violated a number of articles of the Geneva Convention in their treatment of the Guantanamo detainees, but the most egregious was ordering them to be tortured in a number of ways, including sleep deprivation, binding them in painful positions for long periods of time, and water-boarding them.
None of these are defensible, but water-boarding is the least defensible. Which is why these three men have made a special effort to defend it. Their rationalizations stretched logic far past the point of credibility.
“It’s simulated drowning.” No, it’s not. It’s real drowning. Slow, horrific, painful drowning. People are being forced to suck real water into their nose, throat and lungs, not suck simulated water into simulated bodies. And people have died from drowning while being water-boarded. Not simulated death. Real death.
During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong were reported to have killed men by drowning them with as little as a teaspoon of water. Turn your head upside-down, block your mouth, and pour a little water into your nose and what happens? Your throat closes. The human body has an automatic reflex intended to prevent sucking water into its lungs. You can’t get air through a nose filled with water so your throat won’t allow you to breathe and you die. You don’t die gently. Your body fights to try to clear your nose. You struggle mightily to try to escape. You will do anything for air.
You suffer horribly.
If a wet towel is blocking your access to air and it is not removed in time, you die.
During World War Two, Japanese prison guards tortured American prisoners of war in just this way. After the war, did America say, “It wasn’t really torture. It didn’t cause bodily harm. So, no harm, no foul.”? Certainly not. We hung those guards for torturing their prisoners. And rightly so.
And now, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld claim they didn’t do anything wrong. And they pretend to be surprised that the rest of the civilized world doesn’t agree.
It’s clear why they don’t dare face a judge in an international court, present the evidence, and let him find them innocent. For all their weasel rhetoric, they know that they’re as guilty as sin.
I don’t understand why that’s not equally clear to all Americans. Both the ethics and the practical consequences of torture are obvious.
If you don’t want American soldiers tortured when they are captured, then America can’t torture the enemy combatants that it captures. You can even find that logic in the Bible. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
So, for the rest of their lives, these American war criminals don’t dare set foot on foreign soil. It’s not much, but at least it’s something.