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Rev. Joseph Lowery gave an inspired message that morning, in what turned out to be a warm-up for his Benediction at the Inauguration of our new president in January 2009.
Camp Casey that Easter 2006 was a relatively quiet occasion to reflect and celebrate new life and one another. The best known resident of Crawford had decided to avoid the crowd assembling there, opting instead to spend Easter at Camp David in the mountains of Maryland. There troublesome questioners could be kept farther away—I mean people like Cindy Sheehan, who would not stop asking why our sons and daughters were being killed and maimed in an unnecessary war.
The previous summer Sheehan had become the Rosa Parks of Crawford, challenging the president to tell her what was the “noble cause” for which her son Casey died in Iraq on April 4, 2004. Sadly, we were not surprised that an answer-less president preferred clearing brush to clearing up what he meant by saying such deaths were “worth it.”
Ironically, President George W. Bush seemed supremely comfortable talking about evildoers—other evildoers. We, in contrast, saw evil in the launching of what the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal labeled a “war of aggression,” defined as the “supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains the accumulated evil of the whole.”
As I gathered with other pilgrims in Crawford those sad summers of 2005 and 2006, there was a strong sense of responsibility and determination to confront “the accumulated evil of the whole”—particularly torture.
In August 2006, the timid journalists of the western White House told us the president had sweat on his brow from clearing brush. And as we gathered one evening, someone quoted from the musical Camelot: “I wonder what the (self-styled) king is doing tonight; what merriment is the king pursuing tonight.”
With damning disclosures coming left and right about the torture procedures unleashed by that president, it seems a good guess that, rather than making merry, he was sweating the evenings away, as well. You see, President George W. Bush had left his fingerprints on accumulated evils for which he was likely eventually to be held accountable, in one way or another. And during the summer of 2006 the chickens were coming home to roost.
On June 29 of that year, in a 5 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bush administration was wrong in denying detainees the protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions. Bush had done so by Executive Order of February 7, 2002. Don’t look for it in the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM); simply Google it.
Worse still from Bush’s point of view, Justice Anthony Kennedy saw fit to say out loud the obvious; i. e., that disregarding Geneva amounts to a war crime. One Bush aide is reported to have gone quite pale when Kennedy warned that violations of Geneva “are considered ‘war crimes,’ punishable as federal offenses.”
So as we stood watch in Crawford in August 2006, Bush sweat was dripping not so much from clearing brush, but rather from a hasty effort to have the Republican-controlled Congress pass a law granting administration officials—from Bush on down— retroactive immunity from prosecution for the illegal detainment and abuse of detainees. That effort came to fruition in September when Democrats as well as Republicans acquiesced in passing the so-called “Military Commissions Act.”
“Is this a great country, or what?” you may be saying to yourself. But wait; laws can be amended, changed; new laws can be passed. The stay-out-of-jail pass that was given to the perpetrators of accumulated evil can bear an expiration date. Despite the best efforts of crafty lawyers and loyal legislators, perpetual immunity is probably not in the cards.
Still Feeling the Heat
On December 11, 2008, after a two-year investigation, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Carl Levin released the summary of a Senate Armed Services Committee report, issued without dissent, demonstrating that Bush’s Executive Order of February 7, 2002 had “opened the way to considering aggressive techniques” that were then ordered implemented by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Coming soon: the full text, which, even with heavy redactions, will provide ample grist for courses in criminal law for years to come.
More damning still is an authoritative report by the International Committee of the Red Cross—the body legally responsible for monitoring compliance with the Geneva Conventions and supervising the treatment of prisoners of war—that was given initially to CIA acting general counsel John Rizzo in February 2007 but not published in full until this past Sunday. That report describes in gory detail the torture techniques let loose by Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/ and their Mafia-style attorneys for use on so-called “high-value” detainees. Google that report too, if you have the stomach for it and can bear the shame.
George W. Bush had better have a swimming pool in his new Texas digs, because that report puts the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, of any plans he may have had for foreign travel. If he steps onto an international flight, he is likely to have more to duck than shoes, wherever he lands.
Even if the administration of Barack Obama continues to shirk its duty to appoint a nonpartisan, independent prosecutor to launch an appropriate investigation, the former president and his accomplices cannot risk the possibility of being apprehended abroad, brought to The Hague, and tried for war crimes.
I am not making this up. Remember how former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had to sneak out of France in October 2007, reluctant to wait for a Paris prosecutor to decide how to handle a criminal complaint against him for approving torture?
Rev. Lowery’s Easter sermon to the gathering alongside Prairie Chapel Road just three years ago rings ever more true:
“Don’t tell me Easter’s not real! Don’t tell me righteousness will not overcome evil! Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. That’s the message of Easter.”
Let the church say Amen.
Ray McGovern served as an Army intelligence officer and a CIA analyst for almost 30 years. He believes anthropologist Margaret Meade had it exactly right (and that the Crawford Peace House did well to adopt her dictum): “Never doubt the power of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. It is the only thing that ever has.”
The original version of this article appeared on Consortiumnews.com.