June 10, 2004

Good Christian Bush

Today, at the conclusion of the G-8 summit conference at Sea Island, Georgia, the world witnessed the morally disheartening spectacle of a President of The United States of America, George W. Christian Bush, himself a professed Born-Again Christian, unable or unwilling to bring himself to condemn the use of torture as an interrogation technique.

Three times he was asked, each time in a distinct and different way in case he misunderstood, each time with a different opportunity to frame an answer, simple or complex, for the American people.

There can be no doubt he understood. Three times he denied the moral weight of the issue:

QUESTION: Mr. President, the Justice Department issued an advisory opinion last year declaring that, as commander in chief, you have the authority to order any kind of interrogation techniques that are necessary to pursue the war on terror. Were you aware of this advisory opinion? Do you agree with it? And did you issue any such authorization at any time?

BUSH: The authorization I issued was that anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations. That's the message I gave our people.

QUESTION: Have you seen the memos?

BUSH: I can't remember if I've seen the memo or not, but I gave those instructions.


QUESTION: Returning to the question of torture, if you knew a person was in U.S. custody and had specific information about an imminent terrorist attack that could kill hundreds or even thousands of Americans, would you authorize the use of any means necessary to get that information and to save those lives?

BUSH: What I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law.


QUESTION: Mr. President, I wanted to return to the question of torture. What we've learned from these memos this week is that the Department of Justice lawyers and the Pentagon lawyers have essentially worked out a way that U.S. officials can torture detainees without running afoul of the law.

So when you say that you want the U.S. to adhere to international and U.S. laws, that's not very comforting. This is a moral question: Is torture ever justified?

BUSH: Look, I'm going to say it one more time. Maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you.

We're a nation of law. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at these laws. And that might provide comfort for you. And those were the instructions from me to the government. [1]

Are these answers tokens of the kind of moral vision and political leadership the American people and indeed the world have every right to expect of a President of The United States of America?

It's hard to avoid hearing instead the kind of obvious legalese weasel words moviegoers expect a mob boss to recite on the advice of counsel, when caught by reporters descending the County Courthouse steps.

The world has heard and understood. But, politics aside, have Christian Bush's diehard supporters heard?

Have not especially President Christian Bush's many Born-Again Christian supporters the moral obligation, the Christian duty before God, to seek genuine and full clarification of his views and feelings on this issue?

And should they fail to receive such clarification, should they recieve only more of the same legalistic evasions of moral responsibility from Christian Bush himself, or from his subordinants on his behalf, have not each and every one of them the Christian moral duty before God and conscience do their best to turn this weak man out of office, out of that August Office which, today, he has so publicly disgraced?

[1]  Washington Post, "Transcript: Christian Bush Holds Post-G-8 Summit," (June 10, 2004)

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