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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 2/9/11

America's Stay-at-Home Ex-President

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As the news broke on Saturday that former President George W. Bush had abruptly canceled his scheduled appearance this week in Geneva to avoid the risk of arrest on a torture complaint, my first thought was -- how humiliating, not only for Bush but, by extension, for all Americans.

However, those who might have expected Bush to be down in the mouth and sulk about the embarrassment were disabused of that notion as the TV cameras caught him and Condoleezza Rice -- his former national security adviser and Secretary of State -- in seats of honor at Sunday's Super Bowl in Dallas.

Doomed to become America's first better-stay-at-home former president, Bush could still take consolation in getting scarce tickets to big sports events -- he also attended high-profile Texas Rangers baseball games last year -- and he can expect to hear some folks cheer for him, so long as he stays in Texas.

I imagined myself with advanced training in the intelligence collection technique called speed lip-reading, enabling me to decipher from the TV screen what Condi Rice might be saying to her beloved mentor:

Not to worry, Mr. President, as I told those upstart students at Stanford when they kept asking about waterboarding, "By definition, if it was authorized by the President, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture." Period. End of story.

Remember, Mr. President, it was Richard Nixon who pronounced the principle of presidential impunity in his famous statement to interviewer David Frost, "When the president does it, that means it's not illegal."

Oh, the pardon? Well, you're right. Nixon did need to be pardoned, but no worries for you on that score. What luck that we were able to get Obama and Eric Holder to agree to ride shotgun for us, if anyone summoned the temerity to bring charges against us for torture.

And, you can always use the perfect squelch -- the one you used so effectively in talking about waterboarding in that TV interview with Matt Lauer on Nov. 8. You remember, you countered by saying, "The lawyer said it was legal." As a last resort, we can always blame it on Al Gonzales and the gaggle of lawyers who gave us legal cover.

Your reply to Lauer was masterful. Glad we rehearsed that one so thoroughly. Just keep remembering not to say that you told the lawyers what you wanted them to say. Then we're home free.

Speaking of home free, as Ollie North once said, "Is this a great country, or what?" Sure is nice not to have to worry, at least here at home, about anyone holding us accountable for what you called "alternative procedures" for interrogation; or for my asking George Tenet to orchestrate demonstrations of those procedures every couple of weeks in the White House Situation Room.

By the way, we just got a thoughtful thank-you note from George Tenet, who must be the most grateful of all ex-CIA directors. He wanted to remind us of an important anniversary coming up. No, besides Ronald Reagan's birthday.

You may recall that it was on Feb. 7, 2002, that you signed that action memorandum saying the U.S. did not have to abide by the Geneva Conventions in how we treat al Qaeda or Taliban prisoners. Tenet says that he and his boys know they owe you big time for putting down in writing the protection that made them comfortable going to the dark side.

I sure wish that other countries would simply read that carefully worded memo. Then, they might become as understanding as Obama and stop hinting that we are in some legal jeopardy. Staying safe at home is nice, but I really miss traveling abroad. And I'm about to forfeit thousands of frequent flyer miles.

Anyhow, I must remind you, Mr. President, you're not the only one grounded for fear of being detained abroad. I can't begin to tell you how many speaking offers in Europe and elsewhere I've had to turn down.

It's hard, embarrassing even, but you are right to decide to err on the side of caution. That way you are sure to avoid confrontations not only with the local gendarmerie, but also with people like those ubiquitous, obnoxious women from Code Pink who seem to spring up from nowhere with handcuffs.

Ubiquitous? Oh, that means they seem to be everywhere. Obnoxious you know, yes?

A recent Secret Service bulletin said some of those Code Pink women are even in Tahrir Square helping to give our friend Mubarak a hard time. And remember how they went around to bookstores and libraries last fall, putting your excellent book in the fiction or crime sections?

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
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