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Who needs approval ratings when you have lifetime immunity?

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Message Jayne Lyn Stahl
While President Bush's approval ratings fell to their lowest level yet, with only 31% of Americans giving him a big thumbs-up for his job performance, he, Cheney, Rice, and crew can sleep easier knowing that their military junta, which has been reinforced by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, grants them blanket immunity from prosecution for war crimes.

Now that The New York Times has just released two previously classified memos, proving that then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales fibbed when he said that this administration doesn't approve torture, the phrase "alternative interrogation methods" can be revealed for what it is--a transparent euphemism. This "hidden legacy of President Bush's second term and Mr. Gonzales's tenure at the Justice Department" (NYT) flies in the face not merely of the Geneva Conventions, but exposes this administration for its unprecedented human rights abuses.

The White House was uncharacteristically quick in denying allegations that it secretly authorized the use of practices that amount to psychological, and physical, torture on detainees. Indeed, had they responded this quickly to Hurricane Katrina, there wouldn't have been half as many deaths, or people displaced. But, then, there's no oil in New Orleans, now is there?
Yet, that said, a $60 million dollar question (allowing for inflation) remains: if Scooter Libby could be indicted, tried, and convicted for perjury and obstruction of justice in Plame-gate, now that he's a private citizen, why isn't Alberto Gonzales facing perjury and obstruction charges with respect to the purging of millions of White House e-mails, the psychological mauling of his predecessor while he was gravely ill in hospital, the dubious firing of U.S. attorneys who refused to play ball in voter fraud prosecutions.

Congress, whose approval rating barely surpasses that of the White House, has played one handed poker too long. It's all well and good for our elected representatives to hold their little hearings, but why the hell aren't we being treated to photos of the former attorney general on his way to federal court, where he can finally put his hand on King James, and swear to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and where he may be criminally prosecuted for failing to do so? And if the executive branch's former hired gun points in their direction. when asked who who gave the command to tweak torture such that it doesn't translate into English, it is up to Congress to revoke the Military Commissions Act of 2006, reinstate the War Crimes Act, and let the chips fall where they may.

Now that John Ashcroft has spoken, it's time for Alberto Gonzales to talk, and in a court of law, about who was pulling the strings while he magically appeared at his predecessor's bedside, as well as who ordered him to sign off on hitherto anathema detainee questioning practices, and why. Yes men do what they are told, and Mr. Gonzales is no exception.

The buck seldom stops far from where it begins. The time for answers has come.


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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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