Down by Law

By Chris Floyd-
June 1, 2004.

"The rule of law is dead. "

  In January 2002, official White House legal counsel Alberto Gonzales warned George W. Bush that he faced the possibility of execution under the U.S. War Crimes Act for the "new interrogation procedures" and other "flexible measures" he had authorized for the "war on terror," Newsweek reports.

However, because Gonzales regarded himself as the consigliere for the Bush crime family and not a public servant sworn to uphold the Constitution, instead of denouncing Bush's policy of state terrorism -- torture, kidnapping, indefinite detention, hostage-taking, assassination and aggressive war -- Gonzales urged Bush to abandon the international Geneva Conventions and use weasel words to cover up his deliberate violations of U.S. law.

This dereliction of duty comes as no surprise. Back in Texas, Gonzales helped Governor Bush execute a record number of prisoners by preparing the scanty summaries of death penalty cases that Bush reviewed before giving his Neronic thumbs down. Knowing just what the boss wanted, Gonzales routinely omitted mitigating circumstances from the summaries, including recantations of testimony and evidence of flagrant prosecutorial misconduct and defense malpractice, The Atlantic reports. Bush, who continually stoked popular bloodlust for vengeance to enhance his political fortunes, never questioned the slanted reports.

The death-dealing duo then moved to Washington, where the "war on terror" put the whole Earth under the shadow of Little Nero's thumb. At first, Bush balked when he sought lawyers to do the nitty-gritty weasel-work he required, reports. The military's legal corps refused to gut the Geneva accords, which had protected U.S soldiers from abuses in so many conflicts over the previous century. As for U.S. law, it was clear and unequivocal: Violations of the Geneva Convention are a capital crime under U.S. statutes.

But as he never ceases to remind us, Bush is a bold, decisive leader. He wasn't about to be thwarted in his urgent crusade to sink the United States into a festering pit of depraved brutality -- the ideal condition for sustaining the power and privilege of a rapacious elite that regards itself "appointed by God" (as Bush's top military intelligence officer, Jerry Boykin, puts it) and beyond the law. So he turned to Attorney General John Ashcroft, the ruthless, democracy-scorning zealot whom Bush -- in a supremely cynical but shrewd move -- had appointed as the nation's chief law enforcer.

Ashcroft, ever-obedient to God's regent on earth, happily obliged. He called up his crack team of Constitution-shredders -- including authors of the Patriot Act -- and eagerly plunged into an orgy of legal perversion. In short order they handed the Pervert-in-Chief just what he wanted: a mendacious "ruling" that Bush and the U.S. military "did not have to comply with any international laws in the handling of detainees in the war on terrorism" -- or indeed, with any of the "normally observed laws of war," Newsweek reported this week.

Think of it: the presidency, the Pentagon, the military, the mercenaries and the many secret armies, secret prisons and roving death-and-snatch squads run by the various U.S. intelligence agencies -- all unleashed from any legal restraint, all operating outside "the normally observed laws of war." And all of it -- the entire system of torture, abuse, atrocity and aggression -- was ordered and approved and officially documented at the very highest level.

What's more, Bush and his warlords knew they were constructing a blatantly criminal operation; why else dig up legal dodges to shield the top conspirators from prosecution? Lower down, of course, it's a different story. The cannon fodder that Bush fed into his war machine -- the "white trash," the immigrants, the urban poor, the part-time reservists -- aren't blessed with the divine elite's exemption from law. When the system's true nature is inadvertently exposed -- pictures leak out, a massacre gets reported, some honest soldier blows the whistle, etc. -- a chunk of fodder is duly offered up on the altar of "justice," while the authors of atrocity mutter a few pieties and rush off to the next fund-raiser.

However, the bitterest fruits of this deliberately lawless system are not actually found in the much-publicized prison abuses, as horrible as they are. Instead, Bush's willful abrogation of the laws of war has led directly to the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians in the ordinary course of the occupation. The U.S. military's "rules of engagement" have been infected by the elite's criminality, countenancing "spray and slay" tactics, the mutilation of corpses, the killing of wounded and surrendering civilians -- all detailed by anguished professional soldiers like veteran Marine Sgt. Jimmy Massey.

When he saw the bodies of the American mercenaries despoiled in Fallujah, Massey's first thought was "we do the same thing to them," he told The Independent. Iraqis "would see us debase their dead all the time." His unit was killing so many innocent people, including women and children, that he told his commanding officer he felt "we were committing genocide." The commander's response: "You're a wimp."

Massey said that he and his fellow soldiers first went into battle fired up by Bush's warmongering deceit. "My president told me they got weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam threatened the free world, that he had all this might and could reach us anywhere. I just bought into the whole thing." Now he feels betrayed, ashamed. "I killed innocent people for our government. For what?"

Massey, tormented by nightmares, has left the service he loved -- but the killing goes on, "justified" by "rules" designed specifically, at Bush's order, to pervert the law. How many more cities will have to burn to keep this Nero in power?


Double Standards?
Newsweek, May 22, 2004

From John Ashcroft's Justice Department to Abu Ghraib, May 22, 2004

The Marine's Tale: 'I Felt We Were Committing Genocide,'
The Independent, May 23, 2004

'I Killed Innocent People For Our Government
Sacramento Bee, May 16, 2004

US Military Arrests [Relatives] as 'Bargaining Chips,'
Newswday, May 25, 2004

GI: Boy Mistreated to Get Dad to Talk
Reuters, May 20, 2004

Spray and Slay: Are American Troops Out of Control in Iraq?
The Independent, May 23, 2004

We Have Your Sons: CIA
The Age, March 10, 2003

Kill 'Em All: Open Season on 'Military-Age Males' in Iraq
Counterpunch, May 24, 2004

Brutal Interrogations in Iraq
Denver Post, May 19, 2004

The Texas Clemency Memos
Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2003

Bush's Blind Justice in Texas Executions
Boston Globe, July 2, 2003

Justice Department Memos to White House on Geneva Convention, May 22, 2004

Justice Memos Explained How to Skip Prisoner Rights
New York Times, May 21, 2004

US Soldiers Started to Shoot Us, One by One
The Guardian, May 21, 2004

Officials Say Rumsfeld OKed Harsh Interrogation Methods
Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2004

Smiting the Infidels, May 20, 2004

Torture and Truth
New York Review of Books, May 12, 2004

Evangelical General Sees War as Religious Battle
Los Angeles Times, Oct. 16, 2003

The Big Lie
Nation Institute, May 20, 2004

Letter From Ground Zero
The Nation, May 31, 2004 issue

Bush Says God Told Him to Lead Nation
The Observer, Nov. 2, 2003

Abuse of Captives More Widespread, Says Army Survey
New York Times, May 26, 2004

New Details of Prison Abuse Emerge
Washington Post, May 20, 2004

Documents Provide New Details of Abuse
Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2004

Afghan Deaths Linked to Unit at Iraqi Prison
New York Times, May 24, 2004

Washington's Chalabi Nightmare, May 27, 2004

Torture 101: [Bush I and the Contras]
Guerilla News Network, May 19, 2004

The Gray Zone
Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, May 15, 2004

Legal Advice on Torture Rejected
ABC News, May 16, 2004

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