The Hightower Report

What Torture Is; and the Coalition Goes Home


Bill Clinton got roundly ridiculed and then impeached by Congress for a sexual encounter he tried to dismiss by quibbling over what the meaning of "is" is.

Yet, we now have a president who is engaged in a far more damning constitutional encounter he is trying to dismiss by quibbling over what the meaning of "torture" is. Why isn't he facing an impeachment inquiry?

From Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to extraordinary renditions, Bush and gang have violated our own laws and international treaties that flatly prohibit torture of war prisoners. Yet they keep trying to excuse their abhorrent behavior by writing secret memos to themselves, redefining torture as – well – as not torture.

Two more of these self-excusing memos have recently surfaced from Bush's misnamed justice department. Responding in 2005 to a new law passed by Congress and to Supreme Court decisions prohibiting "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" of prisoners, Bush-appointed lawyers wrote a clandestine memo merrily defining CIA torture techniques as not being cruel, inhuman, and degrading. The revelation of this crude attempt to circumvent the laws of our land was so explosive that George himself had to be trotted out in a hastily arranged press appearance to declare with a straight face, "This government does not torture people."

Why should anyone believe him? Because I say so, says the prevaricator-in-chief. Of course, Bush refused to show us the memos, and his staff has even attacked the media for revealing that they exist. No one believes him, because ... well, he's unbelievable.

Clinton tried to mince words about a sexcapade. Bush is mincing words about running his own secret legal system in defiance of our Constitution. Let me ask you: Which offense do you think does the most harm and is the most impeachable?


The "willing" are waning.

Remember George W.'s assertion in 2003 that he was not rushing off to war in Iraq on his own whim? No, no, he cried, lookie here, I've got this big international "coalition of the willing" backing me all the way!

Actually, his coalition was mostly a sham from the start. Of the 300,000 troops it included, 250,000 were from the U.S., and Bush sidekick Tony Blair kicked in another 40,000. Of the world's 194 nations, only 36 chipped in any troops for Bush's cause, and most who did limited their citizens to supporting roles, keeping them out of combat. Despite Bush's pretense, the "multinational force" has really been a unilateral, American operation.

Now, however, there can be no pretense that it's anything else, for Bush's coalition has dwindled down to 20 countries contributing only about 11,000 troops to the Iraq debacle – and most of those will soon be gone.

While George W. can't speak the word "withdraw," leaders of other countries are having no trouble these days saying it with great fluency and frequency. For example, Denmark has taken its 460 soldiers and gone home, Latvia's 125-member contingent is down to 15, Lithuania brought its 50 soldiers home this summer, Georgia plans to withdraw 1,700 of its troops, and the Czech Republic will have all of its 100 soldiers out by year's end.

Even the Brits are saying, "Bye-bye, Bush." Only 5,000 of their troops remain in George's war, and half of them will be pulled out by spring, with the rest expected to withdraw by the end of next year.

Could the coalition be sending a message? I think they're saying, "Yoo-hoo, George, time to bring your troops home, too."

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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torture, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, George W. Bush, Congress, CIA, Coalition of the Willing, Tony Blair

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