Tuesday, July 24, 2007

He'll Always Be Abu To Me

Image credit: Official DoJ portrait

You may have noticed by now that in my writing I've generally steered clear of using nicknames for our public officials. I seldom even refer to Senator Hillary Clinton by her first name only. It somehow seems disrespectful of people I don't know. Of course, I can't resist referring to our current Vice President as "Deadeye" or "Deadeye Dick", but then, that's like a red cape in front of a bull, isn't it? One exception to that, however, is the case of our U.S. Attorney General, Alberto "Abu" Gonzalez.

Why? To understand that, I first have to diverge into a brief discussion of one of the previous horrors of our age, the Holocaust. As an engineer, one of the things I've found most appalling about the death camps was the careful design and construction of the places. Someone put a great deal of rational thought into just how to most efficiently kill millions of innocent human beings. Learned people did this. Contrast this with the Pol Pot massacres in Cambodia or the recent slaughter in Rwanda, which were carried out by uneducated people using primitive means. Horrible as they were, at least the inhuman acts weren't carried out with calm and rational forethought by people who could consider alternatives. Being learned doesn't guarantee a person has a conscience. Nevertheless, having the fortune to be well educated does confer a responsibility. The educated don't get to claim that they can't understand the implications of what they're doing.

That's the reason I despise Alberto Gonzalez. He was, in many ways, the legal architect of the network of black sites and of the torture that occurred there. He and other learned people, like John Yoo, discussed the idea of how much torture was legal while he was the White House Counsel. They weren't in danger. They weren't involved in combat, or trying to chase down dangerous criminals. They were sitting in an air-conditioned office discussing whether organ failure meant the torture had gone too far. That people with advanced degrees, who work in a profession whose guiding principle is supposed to be justice for all, could sit around calmly discussing such things is both appalling and alarming. That these people held, and in some cases continue to hold, high places in our government is downright frightening.

So, as Alberto Gonzalez is being grilled by the Senate today on his behavior during the U.S. Attorneys firings, among other things, I don't feel one bit sorry for him. He isn't experiencing one tenth of the pain he's caused other people to go through, many of whom were probably innocent of any wrongdoing that involves the United States. He richly deserves to be remembered as the guy who made Abu Ghraib possible.

That's why he'll always be "Abu" to me.

And remember Senators, if there's no organ failure, it's not torture.

UPDATE (July 28): The New York Times has called for Abu's impeachment, at least if he doesn't cooperate with Congress concerning a special prosecutor:

Democratic lawmakers are asking for a special prosecutor to look into Mr. Gonzales’s words and deeds. Solicitor General Paul Clement has a last chance to show that the Justice Department is still minimally functional by fulfilling that request.

If that does not happen, Congress should impeach Mr. Gonzales.

Mr. Gonzales’s Never-Ending Story

In my opinion, he's given Congress plenty of reason already, but I agree that if they refuse to appoint a special prosecutor, the only other choice is acceptance that the executive branch is now allowed to do whatever it wants. (h/t Taylor Marsh)


op99 said...

That's a very good point, Cujo. We think of these guys as "evil," but I wonder if Abu would have left a disgusting legacy if he had spent his life as, say, a patent attorney, instead of GWB's bestest Hispanic friend.

Cujo359 said...

Personally, I think he probably would have been a lousy patent attorney, but I really can't claim any real gravitas on that subject.

I think the truth is that evil is done mostly by ordinary people who just ignored the implications and did it anyway. That was undoubtedly true of some of the folks who designed Dachau, and it's probably true in lots of other situations. You can't always blame them - people sometimes have to do those things to survive. But often they have alternatives and they don't take them. That was certainly true in Abu's case.