Having Custody Is Just Another Excuse for Cruelty, Torture and Murder


I heard that the Bush administration is lobbying Congress to block legislation that would bar the military from treating detainees in cruel and unusual ways. As quoted in a recent post, Bush's people say that such legislation would 'usurp the president's authority' and make it difficult for him to protect all of us Americans from terrorists and other bad guys. Bush threatened to veto a $442 billion defense spending bill 'if legislation is presented that would restrict the president's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice.'

What bothers the administration is an amendment to the bill, a rider if you will, sponsored by Senator John McCain, that would prohibit ' 'cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment' of anyone in the custody of the U. S. government.' The profligate spending is okay, it's just that restriction on being able to arbitrarily torture and murder people without question that's the problem. That's what Bush's people mean when they say 'bring terrorists to justice.' A 'terrorist,' of course, is any person who is suspected of forcibly resisting the incursion of U.S. imperial forces, proven or not.

The veto threat is a complete bluff. The wording of the objection is too sophisticated for the Bush administration to be anything of substance. Its release is mostly for his dwindling base of die-hard supporters. They are addicted to his empty words of 'resolve.' For them, they are like a narcotic. So long as they are kept sedated with frequent injections, Bush will be able to string them along and ensure that his support and favorable ratings stabilize around the 40% figure of his long-standing base. Then, his administration's handlers will proclaim that opinion on Iraq, the war on terror, WMDs, and so forth, has 'turned' and that the American people are finally beginning to see that the president was right all along to 'stay the course.'

Really, does anyone think for a second that Bush would seriously consider vetoing a defense spending bill? If, as Bush claims, that the military is doing such a great job fightin' the war on terror over there so that we don't have to fight them over here, denying them funding would do more to put Americans in danger than the inclusion of a provision restricting how the military could treat detainees. Congress should call his bluff and send him the bill with the rider attached; dare him to show his resolve. But, since the only guy who has any balls in that disgraceful collection of hacks, criminals and degenerates is Ron Paul, that ain't gonna happen.

I think what's really spooking the administration about the McCain 'amendment' is the requirement for the protection of 'anyone in the custody of the U. S. government.' Look up a few definitions of the word 'custody' and you can begin to understand why.

The most common understanding of the term custody, provided in this case by lectlaw.com, refers to the condition of being 'lawfully detained under arrest.' Of course, in Iraq , what constitutes 'lawfully detained' is completely up to the arresting authorities. They have their own rules and judges to determine when they are being lawful. If you happened to be an Iraqi who finds yourself suddenly detained, you're screwed.

According to brainydictionary.com., custody also refers to 'a keeping or guarding; care, watch, inspection, for keeping, preservation, or security' (emphasis added). Think about the implications of this definition and the applications in Iraq . How much of this is actually happening under the 'custody' of the U.S. government?

Finally, we have legalexplanations.com, which defines custody as including 'holding property ( Iraq ) under one's control.' Forget the Iraqi government; they are still tethered to the U.S. military, and hence, the U.S. government. The U.S. government, by virtue of its military presence, has 'custody' of all the property within the borders of Iraq , even if it cannot claim security for all areas, and has assumed 'custody' and responsibility for all ('anyone' in John McCain's amendment to the defense bill) the people and property within the boundaries of Iraq . That's what the president's plan is until the Iraqis can demonstrate that they can take of themselves. Only when the U.S. government is completely gone will the responsibilities associated with 'custody' be lifted.

The implications of custody for Iraq go beyond the people and property of Iraq . American and 'coalition of the willing' military personnel also fall under 'anyone' in the custody of the U. S. government. Why shouldn't they; they're there too, aren't they?

Ever since the first Gulf War, the War Department has ignored responsibility for the staggering percentage of veterans suffering from Depleted Uranium Syndrome, euphemistically referred to as Gulf War Syndrome. And it's not only the vets, it's the children they've had with their wives since returning from service in the Gulf. As Kim Hawkins and Robert Shetterly point out, 'There is a 67% birth defect rate among the children of returning veterans from the first Gulf War!' They also document the more drastic effects on people, especially newborns, who never get to leave lands poisoned by DU.

Someone in the Bush administration must be looking to the future. At some point, if the feces ever fully hit the fan and more of Bush's base pull their collective heads out of the nether regions of their bodies, all of this nasty stuff under the watch of the U.S. government will make for good drama at an impeachment trial and then a war crimes trial.

Perhaps Alberto Gonzalez is writing up a directive for the president, telling him how quaint 'custody' is and how all the responsibilities that go with it do not devolve to him, since, as a man on a mission from God, he is absolved from all earthly judgment. Bush better hope that is true and that Alberto's rationalization for cruelty, torture and murder can hold water. Otherwise, there may be more than a few people who would like to subject Bush to their version of 'justice.'.

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Harry Goslin's picture
Columns on STR: 40

Harry Goslin lives in eastern Arizona.