London Mayor Boris Johnson says if Bush goes to the other side of the pond to promote his book, book signings would turn into anti-war riots and he might never see Texas again.
One moment he might be holding forth to a great perspiring tent at Hay-on-Wye. The next moment, click, some embarrassed member of the Welsh constabulary could walk on stage, place some handcuffs on the former leader of the Free World, and take him away to be charged. Of course, we are told this scenario is unlikely. Dubya is the former leader of a friendly power, with whom this country is determined to have good relations. But that is what torture-authorising Augusto Pinochet thought. And unlike Pinochet, Mr Bush is making no bones about what he has done.
Making no bones, and bragging about it, but saying, “Damn right!” signaling he’s proud of having authorized torture. Bush’s excuse is that White House attorneys said it was okay.
Pain was only torture, they determined, when it was “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily functions, or even death”. If that is right, it would seem that most of the techniques of the Spanish Inquisition would be acceptable to the American government. You could beat the soles of someone’s feet; you could pour molten candle wax on their extremities; you could even pull their finger nails out without infringing those conditions.
We lose our moral high ground by this kind of behavior.
How could America complain to the Burmese generals about the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, when a president authorised torture? How can we talk about human rights in Beijing, when our number one ally and friend seems to be defending this kind of behaviour? I can’t think of any other American president, in my lifetime, who would have spoken in this way. Mr Bush should have remembered the words of the great Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who said in 1863 that “military necessity does not admit of cruelty”. Damn right.