Dick Cheney, the architect and godfather of our policy of torture after 9/11, appeared on Meet the Press last Sunday and assured the public he was the man who casually tossed over 200 years of American history and morality into the Potomac trash can. We were a moral nation at birth. During the Revolutionary War General George Washington developed a series of policies regarding the care and treatment of British soldiers, our enemies. International rules about the treatment of enemy soldiers followed in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Most of the countries of the world adopted the Hague Conventions on land warfare in the years 1899 through 1907. In 1949 four conventions were held in Geneva establishing rules for warfare on these subjects: soldiers wounded on the battlefield, sailors wounded or shipwrecked at sea, prisoners of war, and civilians captured in battle.
As a Marine Corps infantry officer in 1954-57 it was one of my responsibilities to lecture our rifle company each year on the four conventions and other treaties on torture. After all of the incidents of torture in World War II and the Nuremburg and Tokyo War Crimes Trials, it was very important to make all troops aware of what the rules of warfare were. Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention is crucial to all troops. In order to fall under the rules of war, a prisoner of war had to satisfy four conditions: (1) Be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates, (2) Have a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance, (3) Carry any weapons openly, and (4) Conduct operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
The 1949 Geneva Convention rules ban any kind of coercion in the interrogation of prisoners. Coercion is defined as “to force to act or think in a given manner, to compel by pressure or threat, or to dominate, restrain, or control forcibly.” Most wars are against “nation- states.” Since 9/11 we have been fighting the “War on Terrorism” in dozens of countries. We currently have over 700 military bases in over 60 countries. But is this a war against a nation-state? Is Islam a nation-state? Aren’t we fighting the 15th Crusade in world history against the Muslims? Aren’t the Muslims fighting for over 60 nation-states dominated by Islam? Islam certainly fulfills the definition of a nation-state.
President George W. Bush turned the “War on Terror” over to Vice President Dick Cheney, who actually had ended up picking himself as Bush’s vice president. Cheney has exhibited a lack of moral compass and empathy throughout his life. Two acts among many others demonstrate his character. As a congressman he never voted for any children’s programs such as Head Start. As a hunter he went to game farms and killed dozens of tame birds at one shooting. As vice-president, at one game farm he shot 70 pheasants in one afternoon. Cheney defends his actions by stating: “We were very careful to stop short of torture. All of the techniques (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, or IETs) that were authorized by the president were, in effect, blessed by the Justice Department.” But it was Cheney and his coven of craven legal assistants who came up with “IETs.” Their names are David Addington, who replaced the disgraced Scooter Libby as Cheney’s chief of staff, and Justice Department lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo.
The whole IET mess was then approved by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, who was picked by Bush because he was a Texas Mexican, not because of his backbone and legal talent. This coven of warlocks came up with this horrific definition of the “threshold of torture”: “Severe pain such as pain associated with death, organ failure, or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body function.” In other words, anything up to that threshold would not be considered torture. Consequently, only death could be torture! And Cheney keeps on saying like a robot: “I’d do it again in a minute.” General Colin Powell, secretary of state at the time, objected strenuously to EIT as a policy because of his belief that the Geneva Conventions and international treaties opposing torture should rule the day to protect our troops from torture. By 1988 the United States and 155 other countries had signed the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Treaty. Cheney and his torture crew paid no attention to treaties against torture.
During the Vietnam War Cheney decided he “had better things to do” so he arranged for five deferments from his draft board. Attorney General John Ashcroft warned Cheney’s group that “History will not judge this kindly.” American law prohibits the use of torture, legally defined as severe physical or mental pain or suffering on a person under your control. Mental suffering includes threatening someone with imminent death or doing anything that disrupts the senses of personality. According to the 6,000-page Senate CIA report our representatives committed the following acts of torture on “enemy combatants” (Keep in mind what the Geneva Convention rules are):
The British Medical Journal has examined the “accidental” deaths of 300 human beings because of idiotic behavior. Almost 90% of the really stupid deaths happened to men. One death stands out. A terrorist sent a package containing a bomb by parcel post. When it was returned to the sender because of inadequate postage, he opened it and was blown to bits. He got the top Darwin Award for keeping the gene pool clean. Dick Cheney should also get a top Darwin award for creating a complex torture system that doesn’t work. Any idiot knows you can’t get a straight answer while torturing—except Dick Cheney.
Psychologist Aaron James has written a serious book called Assholes: A Theory. It could be Cheney’s biography. James defines an asshole as follows: (1) Allows himself to enjoy special advantages and does so systematically, (2) Does this out of an entrenched sense of entitlement, (3) Refuses to treat other people as equals, (4) Always takes the last two cookies for himself, (5) He feels ill-treated if he has to wait in line like everyone else, (6) Feels morally entitled to special advantages—but has already committed moral suicide (has no morality left!), (7) He shouldn’t wait in line like other people because he is particularly busy, owns his own business and is an important man about any town, (8) He has achieved important things, so consequently he has earned special privileges, (9) Others could achieve the same things, but have not, so they are cow-like fools, and (10) Assholes are usually wrong about important things but can’t believe it.
This is Dick Cheney. He said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that we would be welcomed in Iraq with flowers placed in rifle barrels, that Al Queda had a close relationship with Saddam, and that we would use Iraqi oil money to pay for the war. Now we are at least $2 trillion in hock. And Dick, the Senate torture report is not “full of crap.” A detainee at Gitmo hid little pieces of bread from meals so he could feed iguanas that came to the fence. He said it made him feel like a human being. When interrogators discovered this, they placed him in solitary confinement for 30 days, in darkness and isolated. That’s the kind of country Dick Cheney wants. Do we? In fighting the War on Terror with torture he became a terrorist himself.
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