Tag Archives: George W Bush

Spain Must Hold Them to Account!

You may have read how Spain’s Attorney-General tried to get judge Baltasar Garzón to drop his criminal proceedings against former Bush Administration officials (Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who were both senior justice department legal advisers) for torture at Guantanamo Bay.

Well he’s circumventing the order, or at least trying to:

In a ruling on Friday, Garzon ignored this advice but also avoided a direct confrontation with the attorney general’s office by submitting the case to a lottery system which will now assign it at random to one of the six high court judges.

“Let it be assigned to the corresponding court,” Garzon said in the ruling.

The judge who gets the case will now have to decide whether to go ahead of it. Under the system, Garzon will have a one in six chance of getting the case back.

We can only hope that he succeeds. Having said that, their internal wrangling is causing the chain of responsibility for the Bush Administration’s policy of torture to continue to emerge, and is adding a whole new dimension to the argument. So Candido Conde-Pumpido would much rather someone go after the people who authorised the ‘Bush Six’ to give their rulings eh? Fine, but remember this:

The first memo [allowing torture], from 2002, approves waterboarding – which makes the suspect feel like they are drowning – and other harsh techniques on suspected high-level al-Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah.

It was written by former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee for the CIA’s top lawyer, John Rizzo. The CIA has confirmed that two other high-level al-Qaeda suspects were waterboarded.

The memo says: “We find that the use of the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death” – one of the criteria for torture.

Obama wants the flunkies to stay immune, but didn’t comment on the ‘Bush Six’. Attorney-General Holder has tried to ignore them by saying the DOJ and ONC have ‘moved on’, but there are gaps they’ve both left open, should they need to go after the Six and their political masters in the future. As I said in my previous post I hope they are compelled to at some point in the future – if America is to be a nation of laws, Obama mustn’t be allowed to fall back on the Nürmberg defence for any reason. Should what I hope to be his gamble either not be real or not pay off, let Spain remain true to its own human rights legislation and at least go for those who rewrote the rulebook in order to legitimise torture by the American government.

Hold them to Account!

Spain, the country which made a concerted effort to extradite former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet for human rights violations, has now set its sights on the Bush administration:

Criminal proceedings have begun in Spain against six senior officials in the Bush administration for the use of torture against detainees in Guantánamo Bay. Baltasar Garzón, the counter-terrorism judge whose prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet led to his arrest in Britain in 1998, has referred the case to the chief prosecutor before deciding whether to proceed.

The case is bound to threaten Spain’s relations with the new administration in Washington, but Gonzalo Boyé, one of the four lawyers who wrote the lawsuit, said the prosecutor would have little choice under Spanish law but to approve the prosecution.

“The only route of escape the prosecutor might have is to ask whether there is ongoing process in the US against these people,” Boyé told the Observer. “This case will go ahead. It will be against the law not to go ahead.”

The officials named in the case include the most senior legal minds in the Bush administration. They are: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who were both senior justice department legal advisers.

Finally someone decides to hold these people to account. But it puts Barack Obama in a very interesting and quite perilous situation (one entirely of his own making). Until now, despite considerable pressure to do otherwise, he’s chosen a path of realigning the United States back towards human rights norms as a means of dealing with the crimes of the Bush administration. That it both authorised torture and was responsible for it, not to mention for extraordinary rendition and the outrage of Guantánamo Bay, is beyond much doubt. but he’s now in the position of having either to repudiate Spain itself – a NATO ally – for doing what he would do in their position, or launching some form of investigation or action against Bush administration officials responsible for this mess after all. Either way lies danger for him – Spain on the other hand deserves kudos aplenty. They haven’t a hope of actually getting to try these people, but they’re doing everything in their (considerable) power anyway.

Bush Chief-of-Staff Calls Obama ‘Disrespectful’

He’s been gone not even a fortnight, but Bushie’s cronies are on the warpath against Obama. Former Chief-of-Staff Andrew Card (you remember, the one who told W that the Twin Towers had been hit) said:

“…I found that Ronald Reagan and both President Bushes treated the Oval Office with tremendous respect. They treated the Office of the Presidency with tremendous respect. And some of that respect was reflected in how they expected people to behave, how they expected them to dress when they walked into the symbol of freedom for the world, the Oval Office. And yes, I’m disappointed to see the casual, laissez faire, short sleeves, no shirt and tie, no jacket, kind of locker room experience that seems to be taking place in this White House and the Oval Office.”

Fascinating that Card should link respect for the presidency merely to dress. So because Bush was always immaculately presented he was respectful of his office, and Obama is not merely because he dresses in private more informally? Steve Benen slams the comparison:

Or, put another way, where exactly does a loyal Bushie get off talking about “respecting” the presidency? Did George W. Bush always wear a coat and tie? Sure. Good for him. But while he was wearing nice clothes and demanding that his staff do the same, he also oversaw a scandal-plagued White House that trashed constitutional norms and routinely ignored the laws that the president twice swore to faithfully execute.

One respects the office by honoring its place in a constitutional system, not by wearing a suit.

I couldn’t agree more. There hasn’t been a president less respectful of his office than the thoroughly discredited George W Bush. Whatever his ultimate achievements, strengths and weaknesses, at least Obama knows where the real priorities lie.

The Dustbin of History

Hours to go until the inauguration of President Obama, but this caught my eye and I thought I’d share it with you. It’s time to say bye-bye to the most disastrous presidency of modern times. Whether he was really just a puppet of the now wholly discredited PNAC or not, Bush presided over an illegal war which united the world against the United States. He presided over a prison camp in Cuba which united the world against the United States. He (admittedly halfheartedly) fought to enshrine homophobia in the US Constitution, and at the very least rubber stamped a culture of disregard for all other aspects and protections of the Constitution. Illegal wire tapping? Check. Torture? Check. Surveillance society? Check. Whether the Kyoto Treaty ever had any likelihood of being effective or not, he moved the United States away from greater environmental protection under Clinton to even dismissing modern scientific realities, not just on global warming, but on stem cell research, and other scientific realms not approved of by evangelical Christians. And don’t get me started on religion…his & Rove’s pandering to the religious right accelerated the red/blue state split which had been growing since Nixon. That Obama was able to navigate through that mess was nothing short of miraculous.

He promised compassionate conservatism but led the country and the world into successive nightmares. Neither he nor his Master, Dick Cheney, will be missed by anyone with an intellect or any shred of human decency.

Time For Some Campaignin’

The election may be over, but I just couldn’t resist reposting this animation on this blog.

The President-Elect’s Encouraging Start

He’s not starting out using ‘war on terror’ rhetoric:

‘Here in America we compete vigorously in elections and challenge each other’s ideas, yet come together in service of a common purpose once the voting is done.’

He cast America’s economic woes in a grim light. ‘Tens of millions of families are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills and stay in their homes,’ he said. Simple figures bear that out, especially after new figures on Friday showed that the economy had lost 240,000 jobs in October. That was the 10 successive month of losses and America has now shed 1.2 million jobs so far this year.

The tone of Obama’s words provided a contrast with Bush. Though he repeated a vow to help Obama in establishing a smooth transition, he also addressed the issue of foreign policy, using a familiar line about the threat from Islamic extremists. ‘This will also be America’s first wartime presidential transition in four decades. We’re in a struggle against violent extremists determined to attack us – and they would like nothing more than to exploit this period of change to harm the American people,’ Bush said.

Despite pressure from the Polish president, he’s not committing to proceeding with America’s missile defence shield, which has so angered Russia:

US President-elect Barack Obama has not given a commitment to go ahead with plans to build part of a US missile defence system in Poland, an aide says.

He was speaking after Polish President Lech Kaczynski’s office said a pledge had been made during a phone conversation between the two men.

But Mr Obama’s foreign policy adviser, Denis McDonough, denied this.

Two small, yet highly significant and welcome starts. I know very well that both positions might change, but the signal which is being sent at this stage I think is important. I can’t help but wonder if there was a misunderstanding with the Polish president, or if he was trying to blackmail Obama into a position he didn’t want, particularly following Russian President Medvedev’s confirmation in his aggressive State of the Union that he would deploy missiles on the border with NATO to counter the missile shield. Given how stupid the missile defence shield is, I hope that circumstances will allow for the project’s dismantling – I’d hate to see it become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Bush and Palin Fun

Tina Fey, in what must be one of her final regular appearances as Sarah Palin – the VP pick now destined to destroy the McCain candidacy, which so many months ago looked viable (if unwelcome). It’s not a Bush endorsement which has sunk them – it’s McCain’s recklessness and Palin’s ignorant megalomania which have together helped position Obama to take the presidency in just over a week’s time.

Sarah you’ve been entertaining in the most absurd way, but you’re just not electable (even though the current Mayor of Wasilla thinks she is too…):