Jay Leno and the folks over at Fox “News” may find George W. Bush’s tale of waterboardin’ and fetus-in-a-jar hijinx to be just the greatest of fun, but in most of the world, the first of those two things is a war crime.
Case in point: England, where the conservative mayor of London has some keen advice for the former U.S. president:
It is not yet clear whether George W Bush is planning to cross the Atlantic to flog us his memoirs, but if I were his PR people I would urge caution. As book tours go, this one would be an absolute corker. It is not just that every European capital would be brought to a standstill, as book-signings turned into anti-war riots. The real trouble — from the Bush point of view — is that he might never see Texas again.
One moment he might be holding forth to a great perspiring tent at Hay-on-Wye. The next moment, click, some embarrassed member of the Welsh constabulary could walk on stage, place some handcuffs on the former leader of the Free World, and take him away to be charged. Of course, we are told this scenario is unlikely. Dubya is the former leader of a friendly power, with whom this country is determined to have good relations. But that is what torture-authorising Augusto Pinochet thought. And unlike Pinochet, Mr Bush is making no bones about what he has done.
See, whereas to the American media Mr. Bush is little more than a delightful bumbler, ambling through interviews about his absolutely crackers new book, “Decision Points,” his “damn right!” admission to authorizing waterboarding makes him pretty much a criminal in Europe, where they take the convention against torture seriously (unlike in the U.S., where we don’t “relitigate the past.”) To put it plainly, as Mayor Boris Johnson did:
“Waterboarding” is a disgusting practice by which the victim is deliberately made to think that he is drowning. It is not some cunning new psych-ops technique conceived by the CIA. It has been used in the dungeons of dictators for centuries. It is not compatible either with the US constitution or the UN convention against torture. It is deemed to be torture in this country, and above all there is no evidence whatever that it has ever succeeded in doing what Mr Bush claimed. It does not work.
Even as Dick Cheney and his spawn and followers call it: “enhanced interrogation” that includes stuff Pol Pot did is a war crime, and as Jonathan Turley points out:
The controversy may only be the first international reaction to the book. While our media has discussed the book rather matter-of-factly as acknowledging his order to waterboard suspects, other nations take international treaties seriously and view this as an admission of a war crime.
Previously, Cheney and others were the subject of international calls for arrest after they admitted to roles in the torture program. The United States has a clear obligation to prosecute those responsible for our torture program. However, President Obama has promised to block any investigation of torturers and has stopped any investigation of those who ordered the war crime. In the absence of nations enforcing their international obligations, other nations will often set forward to enforce the rule of law.
In addition, since we tortured foreign citizens, those countries would have grounds to issue a warrant as was the case in the arrest of former dictator of Chile Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998 on an order from Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzon who cited Spanish victims in Chile. Regardless of the grounds, any warrant for Bush would put Obama in an even more ignoble position on torture (if that is possible). He would have to fight an effort to enforce human rights law while blocking such enforcement at home. We would be in the same position as Serbia in both protecting accused war criminals and resisting efforts of other countries in seeking to prosecute them.
In the meantime, Bush’s book tour schedulers may want to avoid those countries which care about human rights and focus on such natural allies as China, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. He might want to avoid Italy, Spain, and much of Western Europe.
Cheney and Bush have now virtually dared anyone to come after them. They know that Obama has chosen politics over principle. The question is whether the shunning in London will become an actual effort in another country to issue an arrest warrant.
And that goes for Don Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Judge Bybee, Doug Feith and David Addington, too…
And while Andrew Sullivan focuses on the impact of Bush’s London shunning on the long view of him:
It’s good to be reminded of real conservative values, which include abhorrence of torture and a dedication to the rule of law. By those standards, George W. Bush is not now a conservative, merely a thug, twisting the law to engage in something utterly alien to Anglo-American ideals. And a smug thug at that. Watching his interview on Hannity – yes, I managed to get through most of it – I was reminded of this man’s utter shallowness and moral unseriousness. Glib doesn’t begin to describe his solipsistic denial of his own barbarism.
The short view might not be so good either — since Bush will likely have to do much of his traveling within the United States for awhile. … or maybe he could flee to Argentina or to Jedda, Saudi Arabia, like Idi Amin did…
This is more than just schadenfreude from a staunch Bush opponent. We now face the very real possibility of having a former president of the United States who is limited in his personal travel, along with former senior members of his administration, because they have to actually fear arrest — arrest — in foreign capitals due to their own admission of war crimes.
That is the extent to which George W. Bush sullied the presidency, and the reputation of this country, by authorizing torture.
Heckuva job, George.