November 13, 2005

Defining statements of the whole mess, for me

"I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky."
President William Clinton, January 1998

"We do not torture."
President George Walker Bush, November 2005

Now, famously, it turns out that the truthfulness of the first statement rests heavily on what your definition of 'sex' is. Did Bill not have sexual contact with her? Nope. Apparently, in his mind, fellatio is not 'sex' - which is reserved for copulation. At least, as far as the veracity of such public statements is concerned.

America did not agree. He was hounded and eventually an impeachment motion brought, over the interpretations of whether or not 'sex' included 'blowjobs.'

Now, George Walker Bush has thrown down a statement, in response to accusations. Again, the veracity of the statement depends an awful lot on what each person who hears it defines as 'torture.' But the crux of the matter, to me, is the fact that unlike the first case, the 'definition' at stake here is something much, much more important to our nation.

It is something which reaches directly into the most fundamental relationship there is - not that between the President and his wife, and the potential intrusion of a young and stupid intern. No, it touches directly on the relationship between the United States Government and the people of the United States who have, for better or worse, surrendered the right to many fundamental actions involving violence into the hands of that same government. That's what governments are for. Not to determine how we relate to each other in the bedroom, but to determine how we relate to each other as citizens - and how the ultimate expression of interaction, that of violence, is controlled by the state.

Now, we have a president who is attempting to save political face during a time of intense internal debate over the very nature of the use of force by our government on those who cannot resist. A use which we have ostensibly made laws to cover; signed treaties to cover, and espoused our position to the rest of the world on as 'superior.' At a time when George Bush's own administration is maneuvering to have part of the United States Government excluded from legal restrictions on this type of use of force, the President has gone up before the world and proclaimed that "we do not torture."

If so, why would the CIA need an exemption from restrictions in the law relating to this? Why would we need to keep captives in locations outside the United States and away from the American legal system so that they have not the recourse to protection from our government that our citizens do? After all, once they have been captured, they're not 'terrorists on the loose' even if they are guilty. Furthermore, they have not been so decided by an American court, or in many cases even by the famous 'military tribunals' the President is so fond of proffering.

The only reason, of course, is because there are people in the government operating with a very different opinion of what 'torture' is than the President of the United States, whose job it is to ensure that those very people adhere to the law - and his public statements.

We are left with the following possible conclusions. Either the President's interpretation of 'torture' is dramatically out of step not only with many of his own electorate, but apparently with those within his administration who are seeking official protection from statutes which would punish actions so defined; or he simply is unaware that there are those in his administration (like his Vice President) who are actively campaigning to evade those restrictions.

In Bill Clinton's case, it didn't matter whether he'd simply had a different interpretation of 'sex' or whether he'd seized on it for political hairsplitting - it was ridden into an impeachment hearing by the Republicans. George Bush has just jumped into the exact same chess fork - but on a subject that actually has relevance to the political existence of the United States as opposed to a conservative-voter-friendly debate over sexual terminology and the meaning of a particular marriage vow.

This quote needs to be hung around George Bush's neck on a placard. It needs to be taken into every discussion of the actions of this Administration and its subordinates during the 'war on terror' and how those actions have been explained or concealed vis-a-vis the American public and, worse, the Legislative and Judicial branches of our government whose intended design purpose is to review such actions and check them, if necessary.

Unless, of course, George Bush and company would like to argue that those checks and balances are outmoded, unnecessary, and should not apply. In which case, they should come out and say so.

In either case, we should impeach him now, based on the precedent set by his own party, and the incredibly more serious nature of the issue at hand regarding that statement. At the very least, he needs to be taken before Congress and made to repeat that statement. It will be interesting to see if he can and will.

Posted by jbz at November 13, 2005 4:22 PM | TrackBack

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