It was appropriate that George W Bush gave the fig leaf a final tug this autumn. The Western ‘civilised’ world has covered itself with a huge fig leaf: for many decades. Not content with appropriating for themselves all the virtues on offer, politicians and commentators from the Western world chose to underline that monopoly by constantly criticising others for their lack of such virtues. Human rights featured large in the list of supposed virtues that we have and they don’t. Then came G W Bush and in his inimitable way exposed the fiction. Not for the first or last time he obviously did not know what he was saying. For a man of his limited mental ability that was forgivable but we have to be grateful for his innocence. In saying that he, as President and commander in chief sanctioned waterboarding as a means to torture prisoners to give their interrogators what they wanted Bush finally declared that the so-called civilised world is at least the same as most other states. There are no lines that would not be crossed in the name of national interest and security.
There was a legal gift wrapped up in Bush’s words and his memoires published in November 2010. American soldiers at all levels who practiced waterboarding and other forms of torture could not be successfully tried in a court of law. They were simply following orders! Bush himself will also escape prosecution no doubt. He claimed in his interview that he received advice from his lawyers that waterboarding was legal under American law. Let that sink in:. Legislation in the USA allows torture to be exercised. It is official. This last point is critical. In the past, embarrassing actions were blamed on aberration by one person or at most a small group of people. Millions of Germans and other collaborating Europeans who exterminated six million people simply because they were Jewish got away with the consequences because it was simply Hitler and his gang who did the dirty work. All Europeans were absolved of the crime and in the absence of Hitler and his immediate supporters the Palestinians who had nothing to do with the original crimes were made to pay the price. Bush in the present case closed the traditional escape route. Torture is not only tolerated by the USA but it seems it is enshrined in the law of the land. It was not an aberration by one intellectually challenged person.
Readers might be irritated by my focus on torture of relatively a few individuals when there are even more gruesome crimes to be considered. An illegal war was declared on a sovereign country on the bases of a few claims that turned out to be completely false. That war resulted in the death of several hundred thousand innocent civilian Iraqis (the exact number is not known!!), the forced internal and external migration of about four million others (many of which being middle class professionals), the death of more Americans than those killed in the atrocity of 9/11, the mental and physical maiming of even more Americans, and the waste of some three trillion dollars on a war that simply devastated one country that posed no threat to the USA and elevated another country (Iran) which is an avowed enemy of the USA to the status of regional hegemonic power. Bush’s war also brought al-Qaida to Iraq as an added bonus! However, a single topic such as torture in the present instance helps to impart a great deal more than the multiplicity of issues that surrounded and surround the imphamy that was the Iraq war.
Torture also brings a crucial issue to the fore: will Bush and Blair ever be tried before a judge and jury to answer their accusers? The International Criminal Court set up by the Rome Statute was designed to deal with exactly the issues raised by the Iraq war. The Court has diligently pursued people from weaker and smaller countries so far. Will it tackle bigger fish?
The USA signed the Rome Statute but did not ratify the agreement. What does that mean? There is no such thing as ‘nearly a virgin’.