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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 mary@maryshawonline.com.

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