Hurricanes Bush and Gonzales
Although Alberto Gonzales's scandal-ridden stint as our nation's Attorney General finally ended yesterday with his long-overdue resignation, much of the harm resulting from his recklessness and partisanship remains.
As White House counsel, Gonzales chaired the meetings on the legal definition of torture, remaining silent on disturbing interrogation techniques such as "waterboarding" and, without consulting military and State Department experts in the laws of torture and war, approved a memo in 2002 legalizing torture and thereby giving the CIA the go-ahead to use it.
Along with the White House and the Defense Department, Gonzales is responsible for carving out legal arguments that rendered inapplicable the Constitution and international conventions in an attempt to legitimize the prolonged detainment (often in secret) and abusive treatment of suspected terrorists without charges, hearings, or representation.
In attempting to justify his disregard for habeas corpus, Gonzales claimed before the Senate Judiciary Committee that since the Constitution referred to habeas corpus as a privilege that cannot be taken away (except in narrow circumstances) as opposed to right affirmatively granted, habeas corpus is therefore not a right bestowed by the Constitution --- and his policies reflected this belief.
Gonzalez supported Bush's National Security Agency's clandestine Terrorist Surveillance Program, a program (kept secret for four years) that allows the government to spy on its own citizens without first obtaining a warrant, and about which Gonzales deceived members of Congress and tried to strong-arm then-Attorney General John Ashcroft into supporting while Ashcroft was sedated and bedridden in a hospital recovering from surgery.
Gonzales presided over the firing of eight United States attorneys, dismissals which appear to have been motivated by partisan attempts to impede investigations of Republican politicians or as punishment for failing to initiate potentially damaging investigations of Democratic politicians. Gonzales's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a broken record of "I don’t recalls", was disingenuous, suspicious, and incredible.
A longtime ardent supporter of capital punishment, Gonzales was 25% more likely to authorize the death penalty when the case involved a white victim as opposed to only black victims, a far greater "seek rate" differential than Ashcroft (13%) or Reno (16%).
Ever since he was general counsel to Bush as governor of Texas, Gonzales has sought to speed up the rate of executions. While Bush was governor, 152 people were executed in Texas --- more than under any governor in American history ---, and in 57 of those cases Gonzales provided Bush with legal and factual summaries of the cases for Bush's clemency considerations. Gonzales consistently overlooked evidence of innocence, incompetent counsel, evidence withheld from juries, and mitigating factors, omitting such information from the summaries, which he presented to Bush typically on the morning of the execution for a 15-30 minute briefing.
It should have come as little surprise, then, when Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee this year, in response to questioning by Senator Arlen Specter about his decision to seek the death penalty in a case in which the body had not been recovered and there was no weapon or forensic evidence linking the defendant to the crime (and where the assigned United States attorney did not want to seek death because he thought the risk of executing an innocent person was too high, especially after Gonzales refused the United States attorney's request to exhume the body to either strengthen or weaken the case), that Gonzales stated that (1) he did not remember the case and (2) spending 5-10 minutes (which according to Gonzales's office then was a "significant amount of time") could be sufficient to determine whether to seek taking someone's life, depending on the facts of the case.
So, while the polluted winds of Hurricane Gonzales blow away, it leaves behind allegations of torture, spying, a flippant approach to matters of life and death, lying under oath, political hiring and firings, and a dismembered habeas corpus.
When combined with Hurricanes Rumsfeld, Bremer, Rove, and Wolfowitz, all propelled by the fierce winds of Cyclone Cheney, Hurricane Gonzales formed the Category 10 Hurricane Bush, which swept through America and across the world like a violent, fast-moving storm, tearing up constitutional foundations, sweeping aside human rights concerns, causing trillions of dollars in damage, indifferent to the needs, lives, and dignity of people in its path, a power-driven tornado of greed and hubris operating above the law and causing the most harm to the poor and middle-class.
As these storms eventually break up and breeze their way into ranches, retirement communities, academic chairs, executive jobs, golf courses, etc., the battered country they leave in their wake, mired in war, debt, international isolation, financial instability, a disappearing middle class, educational and health care crises, with millions of people in prison, faces a daunting reconstruction in which we must undo all that these men have done and rebuild all that they have destroyed.
Good riddance, Alberto Gonzales.
Ezekiel Edwards: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 9:03 AM, Aug 28, 2007 in Civil Rights | Criminal Justice | Democracy | Foreign Policy | Government Accountability | Politics
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