Bush, of course, insists that the United States does not torture despite extensive evidence that detainees in the Iraq War and the War on Terror have been subjected to simulated drowning by water-boarding, beatings to death, suffocations, coffin-like confinements, painful stress positions, naked exposure to heat and cold, anal rape, sleep deprivation, dog bites, and psychological ploys involving sexual and religious humiliation.
But Bush says none of this amounts to torture, even as his protection of abusive practices now ventures beyond word games into mind-bending legal rationalizations.
Bushs lawyers went into federal court in Washington on March 2 and argued that a new law that specifically prohibits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees known as the McCain Amendment after its sponsor, Sen. John McCain cant be enforced at Guantanamo Bay because another clause of the law grants these prisoners only limited access to U.S. courts.
With the courts removed from the picture, the administrations legal reasoning holds that only Bush can act. He, after all, asserts that he is the nations unitary executive, meaning that he and he alone decides what U.S. laws to enforce.
But, in this case, Bush also is the ultimate authority behind the criminal behavior. Bush and his top advisers, such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were the ones who ordered the gloves off in the treatment of prisoners seized in both the worldwide War on Terror and the resistance to the U.S. military occupation of Iraq.
The Executive Branch shall construe [the ban] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President . . . as Commander in Chief, the signing statement read.
So, Congress went through the trouble of enacting a new law barring cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of inmates to go along with earlier laws prohibiting torture only to confront a variety of administration arguments that make all the laws meaningless.
While Bushs intent to circumvent the McCain Amendment has been apparent since December, administration lawyers made it official in arguing that a U.S. District Court judge must dismiss a complaint by Guantanamo inmate Mohammed Bawazir, whose lawyers complained that the Yemeni national was subjected to systematic torture.
Bawazirs lawyers cited an extremely painful new tactic of brutally force-feeding their client and other inmates on hunger strikes. The procedure involved strapping Bawazir into a special chair, forcing a larger-than-normal feeding tube through his nose to his stomach, and then leaving him in the restraints for almost two hours while he soiled himself.
But Bushs lawyers argued that the federal courts had no jurisdiction over the treatment of the Guantanamo inmates because a section of the December law an amendment sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Carl Levin, D-Mich. limited Guantanamo appeals only to judgments by military commissions about the inmates status as enemy combatants.
If that argument prevails, Bush will have wrapped the Guantanamo prisoners in a legal strait-jacket, preventing them from proving their illegal mistreatment in court or getting a judge to order that the criminal behavior be stopped.