mean people…

Posted on Monday 30 June 2008

Pretending That Bush is Not a Tyrant

All over the world down through history, political leaders who have engaged in torture and other grotesque crimes of state have justified their actions as necessary to protect their governments or their people or themselves.

It was true when England’s King Edward I had William Wallace – “Braveheart” – drawn and quartered in 1305 for resisting the crown’s rule in Scotland, and a gruesome death was what King George III foresaw for America’s Founding Fathers in 1776 when they stood up to his abuses in the Colonies.

Kings and tyrants often inflicted special pain on people they viewed as challenging their authority and – at such times – they wiped away the rules of justice. But the United States was supposed to be different.

Indeed, reaction to tyrannical monarchs was what compelled the Founders to establish a government of laws, not men, based on “unalienable rights” for all mankind, including protection against arbitrary detention and prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Which is why it was stunning to watch the June 26 hearing before the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution as two representatives of George W. Bush’s presidency responded with disdain when pressed on the administration’s extraordinary vision of an all-powerful Executive operating without legal limits.

While Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington treated the committee Democrats with haughty contempt, former State Department lawyer John Yoo expressed the ultimate arrogance of power with his muddled responses and evasions of direct questions.

The soft-spoken Yoo, who authored some of the key legal opinions justifying the abuse of detainees, wouldn’t even give a clear answer to the simple question of what atrocity might be beyond President Bush’s power to inflict…
[Actually, David Addington looks a lot like Edward I of fourteenth century England.] In all of the discussions about Torture, legality, Presidential Power, etc. that has dominated our dialog and which lead to the absurd performance in the Congressional Hearings last week, it seems to me that the center of the real issue has been obscured by the legalistic harangues. Why have George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and David Addington been so stuck on torturing captives? They’ve gone way out of their way to institute and perpetuate these techniques – including sending captives out of the country. It hasn’t gotten us anywhere. It’s diametrically opposed to our stated values. And it has been very detrimental to our image in the world.

Part of it has to be their obsession with wielding Presidential power. They clearly have little to do with their time except sit around being powerful together. But that can’t be all of it. Some may be their binary thinking – "axis of evil," fear-mongering, winning. They depersonalize their enemies regularly in political games, but take it extremes with the Terrorists and other Arabs. I think they really have caught the "Great Satan" metaphor. But underneath it all is something much more obvious. They simply do not have the same set of values that our founders had. I think they really don’t care that they’ve imprisoned and tortured some innocent people. I don’t think that all people really matter to them. Their people matter to them – not even all Americans even – just their Americans.

The persona we saw in David Addington was devoid of the quality we call empathy, missing any modicum of humility, ruth-less [lacking the qualities of the Biblical figure, Ruth]. It’s hard to feel compassion for that compassionate-less man we saw in those Hearings. He thinks of himself as a tough guy. I find myself thinking of him as something else – a mean guy who shouldn’t be in public office. If he were a lawyer arguing in front of a jury, he’d lose every case based on attitude. So I think that the answer to "Why have George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and David Addington been so stuck on torturing captives?" is partially that they are just plain mean, nasty people – tyrants…

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