Remember when George W was on his moral high horse in the 2000 campaign, shooting his little political pistols and pledging to restore "moral authority" to the White House?
What a kidder! Smoking memos have now been revealed showing that Bush and his political sidekicks have dragged the White House down to the lowest of moral lowgrounds. They have quietly had their lawyers twisting legal language inside out and parsing definitions in order to claim that Bush has the unilateral right to authorize the torture of prisoners of war.
Yes, the same president who so loudly said that he was "disgusted" by the recent photos of prisoner torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, had earlier set the White House's moral bar at an anything-goes level. As early as 2002, he had his lawyers developing perverse and shameful legal opinions that say the president -- and his underlings -- are not bound by U.S. law or the Geneva Convention, both of which ban the use of torture and consider it a war crime.
A 2003 Pentagon memo bluntly asserts that the president is above the law: "In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign... [the laws against torture] must be construed as inapplicable."
The Bushites are taking a page from the playbook of Tricky Dick Nixon, who claimed during his Watergate crimes that "When the president does it, that means it's not illegal."
But wait, if a U.S. president can simply say -- Poof, I'm exempt from your prissy laws against torture -- won't rulers in other countries then be able to claim the same when they have our soldiers in their prisons? And, if the moral standard at the top is one of anything goes, won't that attitude inevitably filter down the ranks? As one career military attorney put it, "Once you start telling people it's OK to break the law, there's no telling where they might stop."
Searching for legal rationalizations to commit war crimes disgraces the White House.
Publication date: 06/17/04