I’ve never really had a problem with President Bush. Sure I’ll laugh at some of his more ignorant statements (aka, “Bushisms”), but I’ve always felt that he was just a man trapped in a difficult situation where not every party can be satisfied.Then I heard the speech he delivered to Congress last Wednesday, and suddenly I’m looking into joining the Michael Moore fan club.
After refusing to confirm suspicions for months, Bush announced that suspected terrorists “have been held and questioned outside the United States, in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.” Or, in layman’s terms, the government operates secret prisons outside our borders.
What’s more, these CIA-run prisons have had difficulty getting information out of suspected terrorists. The CIA had to resort to using “an alternative set of procedures” to make them talk. We’re only left to imagine what that means.
It surprised me that Bush would confess to such methods, so I assumed word had leaked out, and this speech was his attempt to take responsibility for his error in judgment and ask the American people for forgiveness.
But I was way off. Instead of asking for forgiveness, Bush was asking for support.
In his speech to Congress, Bush argued for removing key legal safeguards from military tribunals (e.g., take away some of the trial rights of prisoners put forth in the Constitution), legalizing the CIA’s “detention program” (e.g. secret prisons, which means he knows they’re currently illegal) and protecting U.S. officials from prosecution for possible war crimes: He knows what they’re doing is wrong, but doesn’t want them to have to own up to it.
Later in the speech, Bush said he wants Congress to list specific offenses that would be illegal under the U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996. The president says this list would guarantee that personnel would “know clearly what is prohibited in the handling of terrorist enemies,” so that they may “continue to do everything within the limits of the law to get information to save American lives.”
Aside from the fact that Bush has already labeled these people held for questioning as “terrorist enemies,” he makes it painfully clear that he wants the laws to be explicitly defined so he may figure out exactly how much he can put these people through without getting in trouble. Naturally, Bush “cannot describe the specific methods used” for security reasons.
The most distressing thing about this speech is Bush’s apparent disregard for justice. His speech is all patriotism for American people and condemnation of foreign terrorists, but we have to realize these suspected war criminals are just that – suspects. It’s possible these people are under question simply because someone already stuck in a CIA “detention program” used their names to make their interrogators stop using the “alternative set of procedures.”
I fully support bringing terrorists to justice. It’s the innocent people who get caught up in the mess, Red Scare-style, that has me worried.
Bush’s stance on this issue also makes it clear that it doesn’t matter what legislation declares is acceptable. We know when we’re crossing moral bounds. Bush’s speech makes it seem as though he also knows he has crossed those bounds with these prisons.
At times like this, it’s comforting to know that the majority of Congress feels the way I do and most likely won’t support our president in this matter. I’m definitely a fan of our nation’s system of checks and balances, but no longer one of our president.
Valerie Cooper is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from Azle.