Is Bush Dragging Old Glory in Filth?
The United States flag has flown proud whenever the country has stood for freedom, democracy, decency, and personal honor.
A country can, however, be shamed, with its flag dragged in filth, whenever its leaders, officers, soldiers, and people engage in atrocities, brutality, beastliness, torture, and other evils.
We humans have arrived at a level of knowledge where we have some strong feelings about what is decent, fair, and good, and we also tend to agree on what constitutes shameful, brutal, and beastly behavior.
When a government engages in such actions as torture, inhumane treatment of prisoners, killing of civilians, political assassinations, reprisals against innocents, and a program of liquidating other peoples, then we know we are dealing with a disgraced government, a government of shame, and we know that its flag is being placed in the gutter, that it is being betrayed by subversive, unpatriotic forces at the helm.
We now know that soon after the 9-11 attack the Bush administration began floating unattributed suggestions that perhaps torture would be necessary in fighting terrorism.
Now we know that top-level attorneys in the Bush government soon began to draw up justifications for the use of torture under the general war-making powers of the president, powers which the advisers claimed would trump specific congressional acts outlawing torture, as well as an international treaty outlawing torture which the USA had duly signed.
We know that the Constitution makes treaties the supreme law of the land, but the Bushies were asserting a presidential power superior to that of the Constitution and to all acts of Congress: in other words, the powers of a dictator.
Can true patriotism ever require the torturing of prisoners? Can patriotism ever demand that men be trained in how to inflict sordid, indescribable pain, dehumanizing pain, upon a captive, a prisoner under one's control?
What does it mean to train soldiers in the brutal beating of other persons, persons shaped like their own fellows, but classified as less than human, as filth to be abused? What does it do to the soldier?
What happens to the government agent who becomes a torturer? What happens to the killers and rapists of innocent persons? Can such people return to civilian life? Can they be husbands, fathers, lovers, police officers, FBI agents, Sheriff's deputies, teachers, coaches?
Can those who have brutalized ever become normal again? Can they be trusted by wives, colleagues, lovers, prisoners, the public at large?
And the flag: what about Old Glory? Is it now stained with the blood of torture victims? Has it been dragged into filth and shame by the Bush administration?
Do we now know why persons in the Bush team let leak the question of using torture soon after 9-11? It was shrugged off, but then came the violent objection to the International Criminal Court by Bush, with the demand that U.S. military personnel be exempt from prosecution for crimes against humanity, and then we learned of a plan for secret military tribunals, and of the category of "enemy combatants" who could be imprisoned without charge, without legal rights, without names even, simply unknown numbers of persons held without habeas corpus, without even the status of a prisoner of war.
And some of us began to be uneasy with the idea that hundreds of men were being kept at Guantanamo in wire cages, under continual interrogation, without any idea of the quality of their treatment, without any civilian supervision, without any judicial scrutiny, without being an enemy in a declared war, but only someone captured in another country, a country not at war with the USA.
Now the Wall Street Journal ("Pentagon Report Sought to Justify Use of Torture" by Jess Bravin, June 7, 2004, pp. A1,A17) has disclosed that U.S. personnel at Guantanamo in January 2003 sought approval for using torture methods with "recalcitrant" prisoners who were refusing to provide information desired by their interrogators.
And also we have learned that Bush administration lawyers responded with essentially a "yes."
Methods forbidden by international and U.S. law could be used and the torturers could be shielded from prosecution because they would be following orders of the US president, George W. Bush.
Now perhaps we can understand why the U.S. is holding thousands of prisoners in out of the way places in order to deprive them of rights to legal counsel, official criminal charges, and safety from torture.
Many are being held in secret places in foreign territory so that methods may be used which even relaxed U.S. rules might forbid. This is probably why persons implicated in 9-11 have not been brought to the U.S. for trial, as one would expect. Instead, they have become prisoners buried, as it were, in deep, dark dungeons without charges, lawyers, Red Cross visits, Amnesty International, or hope of release. That is, in itself, a form of torture is it not?
Many months ago several reporters for the Washington Post reported evidence that prisoners were being tortured at Bahgram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, as well on British-controlled islands in the Indian Ocean and at Guantanamo in Cuba.
Tragically, the rest of the press and Congress paid little attention to their findings. If they had, the shame of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq might not have occurred.
In any event, it seems certain that Secretary of Defense: Rumsfeld has approved the use of torture and that George W. Bush must have been aware of all of the activity surrounding the justifications for torture PROVIDED IT WAS CARRIED OUT UNDER HIS MANDATE!
Does this not call for criminal charges against Rumsfeld and for the impeachment of Bush? Old Glory must be cleaned of the stains of filth and blood the Bush Administration has soiled it with.
© 2004 Professor Jack D. Forbes, Powhatan-Delaware, is a historian, social critic, and poet, covering issues of international and inter-ethnic relations for 45 years. He is the author of Red Blood, Africans and Native Americans, Apache, Navaho and Spaniard and other books. He is professor emeritus of Native American Studies, University of California, Davis. He can be contacted at his web site.
This article was originally published in News From Indian Country June 28, 2004