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Former President George W. Bush continues to be beyond shame. Those favored with an advance copy of his memoir, Decision Points, say it paints a picture of a totally unapologetic Bush bragging, for example, about authorizing the CIA to waterboard 9/11 "mastermind," Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
According to newspaper accounts of the memoir, Bush says he was asked by the CIA for permission to subject KSM to the technique that creates the sensation of imminent drowning. His response was: "Damn right."
For such a frank admission of high-level criminality, we can say, with ample justification, Shame on Bush. But that shame also sticks like Saran wrap to the rest of us and especially to the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM), which has soft-pedaled the significance of Bush's confession, and to his make-nice successor, Barack Obama, who has refused to demand any accountability.
However, if we are still a democracy, we are all complicit.
I don't much care if this sounds judgmental. You see, I was alive during World War II when there was torture galore; then it was considered a grave offense. The Nuremberg Tribunals tried and convicted Germany's leaders for torture and other war crimes. In the war's aftermath, there were a very few serious people arguing that the world should simply look forward, not backwards. The vast majority knew there had to be a reckoning, even amid the many serious crises that were facing a war-ravaged world.
The chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg, Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, insisted that the civilized world had no choice but to demand justice. He looked the Nazi leaders straight in the eye and told the court:
"No charity can disguise the fact that the forces which these defendants represent " are the darkest and most sinister force in society," Jackson said. "By their fruits we best know them. Their acts have bathed the world in blood and set civilization back a century. They have subjected their European neighbors to every outrage and torture. "
"The real complaining party at your bar is civilization. " Civilization asks whether law is so laggard as to be utterly helpless to deal with crimes of this magnitude by criminals of this order of importance."
The prescient Jackson foresaw a time when not just the vanquished Nazis, but also America's own leaders might deserve to be put in the dock:
"But the ultimate step in avoiding periodic wars " is to make statesmen responsible to law. And let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve any useful purpose it must condemn, aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment."
Sadly, it is now clear that U.S. officials do not believe they should be held to that universal standard, and that the Nuremberg principles and other international laws need not apply to decisions emanating from the White House.
Rather than facing a stern judgment for his criminal actions, including approving torture and authorizing aggressive war against Iraq, George Bush is about to be lionized in Dallas over his presidential library, in bookstores for his memoir, and in the FCM. Two articles in the New York Times' "Week in Review" section on Sunday cited Bush's memoir as a possible turning point for Americans viewing the ex-President more favorably. Neither article made any mention of Bush's "Damn right" admission of ordering torture.
Reporter Peter Baker wrote, "Perhaps it is time to think about whether America has begun to reconsider its 43rd president." Columnist Maureen Dowd faulted "W's decision-making" but said "his story-telling is good."
In his memoir, Bush exudes confidence that he can achieve the resurrection of his popularity even as he boasts about his role on torture. It was a mark of almost inconceivable hubris that he would callously admit, this time in writing, his authorization of waterboarding.
But he did make that admission, which lobs the ball into our court as American citizens. It is indeed time for the kind of judgment Justice Jackson envisioned, not a celebratory book tour. Nor is it time for breaking ground on a new presidential library to further cover up crimes and falsehoods under a veneer of neo-con "scholarship." (Progressives in Dallas have taken to calling Bush's new structure a "lie-bury.")