Bush's Torture Scapegoat
October 12, 2005
By Mary Shaw
On September 27, Army Pfc. Lynndie England, the dominatrix of Abu
Ghraib, was sentenced to three years in prison. She had been found
guilty on six of seven counts involving the mistreatment of detainees.
I do believe that England should be punished for her actions.
She should have known better. She was clearly having too much fun
in those photos. However, the abuse was not her idea. Lynndie England
is a follower, not a leader, and she believed that she was following
orders from military intelligence. She is Bush's latest scapegoat.
The Bush administration continues to blame the abuse on "a few
bad apples," but the policy of mistreatment definitely came from
the top. Photos from Guantanamo Bay show the same kinds of torture
that we saw at Abu Ghraib. We can't blame Guantanamo on Lynndie
England. And reports indicate that it's happening elsewhere, too.
But as the low-level offenders are sent to jail, the high- level
architects of the policies that gave the green light to torture
are rewarded with promotions.
Take Alberto Gonzales. While serving as White House Counsel, Gonzales
paved the way for war crimes with his now-famous "torture memo"
in which he dismissed the Geneva Conventions as "quaint," and advised
the Bush administration of ways to skirt international law while
reducing the risk of criminal liability.
He advocated for holding detainees secretly and indefinitely, and
depriving them of the right to due process, by arbitrarily labeling
them as "unlawful combatants." To Gonzales, basic human rights could
be conveniently turned off and on at a whim by arbitrarily slapping
a label on someone. Who's the real unlawful combatant?
And Gonzales was rewarded for his efforts with a promotion to
Attorney General. The man who found creative ways of bypassing international
law is now our country's chief law enforcement officer. You just
have to appreciate the irony.
Then there's Jay Bybee, who collaborated with Gonzales to redefine
what constitutes "torture". According to Bybee, you can abuse them
all you want. You can kick them, urinate on them, sodomize them,
and set dogs on them. To officially be "torture," they have to die,
or suffer organ failure. Anything else doesn't count.
In return, Bybee was appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
- the largest appellate court in the country.
Let's also take a look at the new darling of the Bush administration
- John Roberts. In Rumsfeld vs. Hamdan, Judge Roberts ruled
that the President was not constrained by international law and
that "the Geneva Conventions do not create judicially enforceable
rights." This man who holds such low regard for human rights is
now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The word "justice" doesn't
mean what it used to.
And just last week George Bush threatened to veto
a military spending bill because it contained an anti-torture provision.
These high-level players in the Bush administration found their
way to fame and fortune by creating loopholes through which they
could get away with torture. And they created loopholes through
which anyone - you, me, your sister, your brother, your mom, any
of us - could be held in detention on a whim for years, without
charge and with no legal recourse, and possibly tortured.
On May 7, 2004, George W. Bush boasted that "because we acted,
torture chambers are closed." No, George, they're not closed. They're
just under new management - yours!
And little Lynndie England takes the blame.
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. She
currently serves as Philadelphia Area Coordinator for Amnesty International,
and her views on politics, human rights, and social justice issues
have appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and magazines
worldwide. Note that the ideas expressed in this article are the
author's own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty
or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail