Bush prepares to kill for Power

by Guy Roberts
8 February 2002

Bush, with an eye on a second term as president, is planning to make use of a political stunt that has served him well as governor of Texas. During his governorship of Texas, George Bush was well known for using the death penalty as a tool for winning public support during election years. 152 executions took place in Texas while he was Governor. Virtually every opportunity to grant pardon was passed up by Bush.

George Bush now intends to use the same political tool of executions ensure his re-election as President of the United States. He has learnt from his father's failure to secure a second term that winning a war will only buy fleeting electoral support. Bush believes that he can hold on to popularity throughout his Presidency buy executing some 'evil doers'. The simple division of the world into good and evil is an appealing message to voters and will remind voters of the 'victory' in Afghanistan.

However Bush has a problem. He knows that ensuring a conviction of Al-Qaeda members will not be easy. Take the example of the Lockerbie bombing. In that case a conviction took years, and an appeal is still ongoing. In order to ensure that executions of Al-Qaeda members will be possible before the next Presidential election, George Bush has taken the unprecedented step of attempting to bypass both international law and US domestic law.

Suspected Al-Qaeda members are being transferred to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The US military presence in Cuba is unique in nature. At most US military bases, U.S. law applies. For example, civilian in an American military base in Germany, would have recourse under U.S. law if their civil rights were infringed. This does not apply at the military base in Guantanamo Bay.

The land at Guantanamo Bay is under a lease from Cuba (which provides that the lease cannot be terminated unless both parties agree), and is therefore technically Cuban. This means that the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay cannot resort to American law if they believe their civil rights have been abridged; and since they have not been acknowledged as prisoners of war, they also have no recourse under international law in the event they wish to make a case that their rights have been violated. They effectively have no rights.

In the place of US law and international law, Bush has set up military tribunals. Human Rights Watch says . Under President Bush's November 13th Military Order on military commissions, any foreign national designated by the President as a suspected terrorist or as aiding terrorists could potentially be arrested, tried, convicted and even executed without a public trial, without adequate access to counsel, without the presumption of innocence or even proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and without the right to judicial appeal.

Also, there can be no doubt about George Bush's ability to execute. Although George Bush claims that he was anguished by the decision to execute a female prisoner in Texas, in an interview in Talk magazine, writer Tucker Carlson described Bush mimicking the woman's final plea for her life. "'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'don't kill me.'"

"President Bush's order (to establish military tribunals) would allow far lower standards than at the international tribunals," said Richard Dicker, director of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch. "To claim they are similar is disingenuous at best."

Human Rights Watch points out that just this year, the State Department's annual report on human rights practices around the world concluded that military courts in Egypt, which have been used to try not only those accused of violence but peaceful dissidents, have "deprived hundreds of civilian defendants of their constitutional right to be tried by a civilian judge."

The way that George Bush's military tribunals have been set up, they will permit trials exactly like those America has condemned abroad. Future military dictators will need to do nothing more than copy the Bush order to secure a repressive mechanism that will ward off future U.S. criticism. Bush's military tribunals have the potential to become a virtual code of misconduct for authoritarian governments around the world. This is a high price for the world to pay in the aid of ensuring Bush a second Presidential term.