Good Riddance, Gonzales

by ANDY WORTHINGTON

OK, so the departing Attorney General was not as malevolent as some made out: more a willing pawn of his old friend George W. and the recently departed Karl Rove, and, moreover, of the genuinely malevolent Dick Cheney, and his close associate David Addington. The notorious memorandum, in January 2002, which paved the way for torture at Guantánamo–by dismissing the Geneva Conventions as "quaint," and insisting that "strict limits on [the] questioning of enemy prisoners" hobbled efforts "to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists"–was, for example, signed by Gonzales, but was actually written, as Barton Gellman and Jo Becker noted in a Washington Post series on Cheney in June, by the rather more articulate and definitely more fear-inspiring David Addington, Cheney’s chief counsel and his old buddy from the Reagan days, when the two men, revisiting the love of unfettered executive power that Cheney had first admired under Richard Nixon, bullied Congress to defend Reagan’s right to–you guessed it–do what he damn well pleased during the Iran-Contra scandal.

So, a clown and a scapegoat, then, as was indicated in April by his repetitive memory loss during the Senate hearing into last year’s politically motivated dismissal of eight federal prosecutors, when, as the Washington Post reported, he "uttered the phrase ‘I don’t recall’ and its variants (‘I have no recollection,’ ‘I have no memory’) 64 times," and as was proved conclusively by his attempt, during a previous Senate hearing in January, to explain that, although the Constitution states that "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it" (Section 9, Clause 2), this doesn’t prove that citizens actually have habeas rights in the first place. The full exchange, between "Gonzo" and Senator Arlen Specter, is worth revisiting, perhaps as a suitable epitaph for the newly departed and unlamented Attorney General.

GONZALES: [T]here is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away. But it’s never been the case, and I’m not a Supreme ­

SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?

GONZALES: I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn’t say, "Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas." It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except by–

SPECTER: You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.

GONZALES: Um.

In conclusion, then, there may no longer a be a Fool on the Hill (or not that one, at least), but Cheney and Addington are still in place, and it was they (with Timothy Flanagan and John Yoo) who drafted not only the memo signed by Gonzales that stripped "terror detainees" of their rights under the Geneva Conventions, but who also masterminded four other crucial documents whose aim was to elevate the President to the position of Dictator and Torturer-in-Chief, and which have done so much to tarnish the reputation of the United States, both at home and abroad: the open-ended Authorization for Use of Military Force (September 18, 2001), a secret memorandum authorizing the warrantless surveillance of communications to and from the United States (September 25, 2001), Military Order No 1, which stripped foreign terror suspects of access to any courts, authorized their indefinite imprisonment without charge, and also authorized the creation of "Military Commissions," before which they could be tried using secret evidence (November 13, 2001), and the notorious "Torture Memo" of August 1, 2002, which sought to redefine torture as nothing less than organ failure or death.

The notoriously secretive Addington needs vilifying as regularly and as publicly as possible. As a lengthy US News and World Report article in May 2006 explained (which highlighted Addington’s role as, amongst other things, the shepherd of Bush’s lawless "signing statements," and a key player in the fiction that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium from Niger), he’s "the most powerful man you’ve never heard of." Now that’s scary.

ANDY WORTHINGTON (www.andyworthington.co.uk) is a British historian, and the author of ‘The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison’ (to be published by Pluto Press in October 2007).
He can be reached at: andy@andyworthington.co.uk

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