Bush’s legacy of torture

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By Rick Howell

When George W. Bush recently vetoed a bill that would have banned so-called waterboarding as an approved interrogation technique, he solidified his sorry legacy: the first president to actually want the United States of America to practice torture.

Bush won’t call it torture, and he’ll insist at any of his barely coherent press conferences, in the pseudo-language he uses to mimic English, that “The U.S. doesn’t torture.” But like most everything with Bush, it’s either a lie or a distortion.

Waterboarding is torture; pure and simple. If you don’t think so, maybe you’d like to volunteer to undergo it and see how you feel. Is it torture? Or is it just an innocent interrogation “technique?”

It’s been described and demonstrated in different ways, but basically it’s holding someone’s head under water until the point of near drowning, or pouring water down a victim’s throat, through a towel, until they’re about to drown that way.

Again, if you don’t think it’s torture, then I’d like to see you volunteer to have it done to you and then testify about its advantages. Any takers? How about Bush himself?

Now we know, don’t we, that George W. Bush is the toughest man on the planet, right? He’s the great warrior of the 21st century; he’s the rock upon which the “war on terror” rests. He “served” during the Vietnam War by hiding out in the National Guard. But when all the terrorists of Sept. 11 were found to have been Iraqis (actually, none of them were, but just play along), he didn’t hesitate to attack a country that hadn’t attacked us, because, well, he’s a “man’s man.”

But I’m betting that The World’s Toughest Man himself would crack under such treatment, and he might even call it torture if it was ever done to him. However, such truths mean little to a man who is so removed from the realistic results of his policies. Bush has so ruined the reputation of this country I’m not sure he ever understood just what it was in the first place.

Prior to Bush, there were certain things this country didn’t do. We didn’t operate secret prisons in Eastern Europe; we didn’t invade countries that hadn’t attacked us; we didn’t leave criminal suspects to rot in jail for years without charges being brought against them, and we did not - we did not - torture criminal suspects.

Yes, we’ve committed our share of moral crimes in the pursuit of global power. We’ve overthrown democratically elected governments; we’ve supported bad guys in the interest of opposing people we (sometimes wrongly) thought were worse, and we spent a lot of time trying to kill Fidel Castro, among others.

But very few of those things were the result of official U.S. policy debated in Congress and put before the American people in broad daylight. Only George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have been so brazen to actually argue for torture and act as though it were perfectly acceptable. It isn’t. They’re wrong. And they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

But we know, of course, that the word “shame” is not in the vocabulary of this crowd, not when they’re so skillful at exploiting the word “terrorism” to promote their wretched agenda.

John McCain is wrong to be so gung-ho about the war and the seemingly endless occupation of Iraq, but ask John McCain about torture and you’ll get an answer from someone who - unlike Bush - has fought in a war and has personally experienced torture.

He knows, as most of us do, that it shouldn’t be U.S. policy. Shame on a president - one already drowning in shame - for believing it should.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a member of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee, and can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.