In 18th century Prague, as legend has it, a Rabbi created a Golem by mixing wax, clay and semen, speaking invocations, drawing a figure and then setting it on fire, so the figure would come to life. Ms. Shelley used this legend to create Frankenstein story. The Golem was inanimate and had no soul. It was a Godless creature that proceeded to wipe out the Rabbi’s enemies, and then, by accident, the town’s innocents and then, very nearly the Rabbi himself.
I continue the tradition of bitter complaint about legal injustice. There is an interesting tension between two different aspects of the Global War On Terror that have been in the news, but not really in the News.
The first component involves Steven Bradbury, the Justice Department official who heads up the Office of Legal Counsel, testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. Exciting stuff, yes? What makes this so unbelievable is that this testimony reveals just what may have pushed former A.G. Ashcroft to threaten to resign. The second looks at the so called justice that six "high-value detainees" will enjoy at the hands of their military commissions this spring.
Both involve a strict reinterpretation of the notion of rule of law. Rules are re-written and re-interpreted so that you can play by your lawyers interpretation of the rule of law, yet express the rule of man. This is the Golem.
The Bradbury testimony represents once of these condescending word games that this administration has become noted for. Except in this case we need to keep in mind that the topic at hand is rationalizing the torture of human beings. Excerpts really do not reveal what a cold hearted shit this person is, so go read the remainder. A sampling:
"Under the mental side, Congress was very careful in the torture statute to have a very precise definition of severe mental pain or suffering. It requires predicate conditions be met and then, moreover, as we said in our opinion in December 2004, reading many cases, court cases, under the Torture Victims Protection Act, it requires an intent to cause prolonged mental harm. Now that's a mental disorder that is extended or continuing over time and if you've got a body of experience with a particular procedure that's been carefully monitored that indicates that you would not expect that there would be prolonged mental harm from a procedure, you can conclude that it's not torture under the precise terms of that statute."This represents the mechanized dehumanization that has been one of the defining characteristics of the rendition program as described by an essay in The New Yorker named The Black Sites . I had a little discussion about it last September and had a few choice things to say. Does this sound familiar?
"The C.I.A.’s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. 'It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever,' an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. 'At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.'"More of the same. A rhetoric based attack on humanity.
The second course for the meal is what slides out the other side of the meat grinder. After a sufficiently long stay down in Cuba - where in spite of Michael Moores insistence on 24 hour medical care people seem to be getting really sick and dropping dead - the powers that be need to seek some kind of closure on the whole affair. This is an election year and all.
The show trial will begin this spring and will be run with the same attention to detail and the new rule of law that has been the hallmark of this whole misadventure. Misadventure being a euphemism for kidnapping hundreds of people, denying them basic human rights, then sending what is left of them back to their hostile countries to be treated in whatever way politically volatile people are.
Harpers had a little post on it, where I get the following:
According to Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo’s military commissions, the process has been manipulated by Administration appointees in an attempt to foreclose the possibility of acquittal. Colonel Davis’s criticism of the commissions has been escalating since he resigned this past October, telling the Washington Post that he had been pressured by politically appointed senior defense officials to pursue cases deemed “sexy” and of “high-interest” (such as the 9/11 cases now being pursued) in the run-up to the 2008 elections. Davis, once a staunch defender of the commissions process, elaborated on his reasons in a December 10, 2007, Los Angeles Times op-ed. “I concluded that full, fair and open trials were not possible under the current system,” he wrote. “I felt that the system had become deeply politicized and that I could no longer do my job effectively.”The entire article is worth reading if only to grasp what the remainder of the world thinks about this whole banal affair. There will be talks about how this is the moral equivalent of the Nuremberg trials. If only that were the case. This will be Nuremberg kabuki - where the rubric of Justice will be presented without the bother of meat on the bone.
“I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process,” Davis continued. “At which point, [Haynes’s] eyes got wide and he said, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals, we’ve got to have convictions.’”
There is a systematized illness here which is not clearly under the direct control of any single person. All this time I have been predicating my model on the simple idea that there is actually someone making deliberate decisions about specifics. I wonder now if perhaps we might just have a bunch of greedy little boys who have discovered the power of language. The fact that there has always been tension between the gross incompetence demonstrated by this cabal and the Evil Plans for World Dominance has always struck me as a little off key.
The problem is that this scenario scares me a whole lot more than the directed back room politics ever did.
It was a Godless creature that proceeded to
wipe out the Rabbi’s enemies, and then, by
accident, the town’s innocents and then,
very nearly the Rabbi himself.